Tuesday, December 19, 2023

A gripping survival story in the Andes


Wait. Haven't I seen this movie before? 
Vague memories of Frank Marshall's 1993 Alive flickered through my mind while watching Society of the Snow, the real-life story of the crash of a 1972 flight that was transporting a Uruguayan rugby team to Chile for a tournament. 
  Sixteen people survived the crash after spending 72 days in a frozen section of the Argentine Andes. Twenty-nine of the passengers died, either in the crash or shortly after it.
   Director J.A. Bayona’s  version of this harrowing story may have a predecessor but its vividly created drama of survival still grips us.
  Bayona replaces American actors with a Spanish-speaking cast that gives the movie an authenticity that matches the frozen world he convincingly depicts.
  Wear a sweater while watching because you’ll feel the bone-chilling cold that threatens the lives of passengers stranded with so little food that they ultimately face an horrific decision. Would they eat the dead?
  Bayona and his team recreate the horror of the crash, the bone-rattling impact that occurs when the plane flies into a mountain, shearing off its back end. 
  What begins as a celebratory trip for the Old Christians Club rugby team becomes a sustained nightmare. Planes fly overhead, but don't spot the survivors. Hope begins to wane.
  The characters spend much of their time huddling in the carcass of the downed plane as the prospect of cannibalism looms. The decision prompts serious discussions about the implications of the choice. Do such extreme circumstances justify extreme actions? 
  The forbidding environment and the battle against it dominate character development, although Bayona includes enough background about a few of the characters to flavor the movie with humanity.
   Society of the Snow works as a stripped-down survival epic, but its moral questions are as stark, alarming, and real as the rugged peaks that trapped those who lived through the crash.


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