Alive is a 1993 film adapted from an acclaimed book by that interesting writer Piers Paul Read (long ago, I read and enjoyed his novel The Upstart). It's based on the true story of the Andes plane crash in 1973. After seeing the Andes for myself last year, and realising what a formidable range of mountains they make, I wanted to see the film, and I wasn't disappointed.
It's a very well made movie, tightly written and as gripping as a fictional thriller. But knowing that it's based on a real life catastrophe made it all the more compelling for me - and very poignant, too. The cast includes Ethan Hawke and Ileanna Douglas, but really it's a high calibre ensemble effort, with no real weak points. The action scenes are expertly presented, not least the plane crash itself.
To my surprise, two Bacharach and David songs find their way into the story. Douglas' character hums "The Look of Love" (which has featured in a very diverse range of films indeed) and when the survivors discover a transistor radio, it starts playing Dionne Warwick's "Do You Know the Way to San Jose?" I suppose if you're stranded in the Andes, great music is a comfort, but a pretty cold one.
The story is famous because the survivors resorted to cannibalism. This aspect is presented without crass sensationalism. It would be so easy for a shocking story like this to be an exercise in bad taste (so to speak) but John Patrick Shanley's screenplay and Frank Marshall's direction handle it very well. Really, it's a story about the indomitable nature of the human spirit. I found it unexpectedly uplifting.