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Alive

On October 13, 1972, a plane carrying an Uruguayan soccer team over the Andes lost its bearings in bad weather and crashed in the remote mountains. Based on Piers Paul Read's account of the survivors' ordeal--they turned to cannibalism to stay alive--ALIVE knocked around the studios for a full decade before being produced (although 1976's SURVIVE was an exploitation version of the same story). After a harrowing crash scene, the survivors quickly lay out the dead and administer first aid to the injured. Convinced of a speedy rescue, they nevertheless carefully ration the little food and drink on board. But the days drag on, the injured begin dying, and the healthy lose their strength and--when they learn they've been given up for dead--hope. Eventually, three of the strongest embark on an apparently hopeless hike over the mountains and back to civilization. The prologue--featuring an uncredited John Malkovich as a survivor, reflecting on the ordeal--casts ALIVE as a spiritual odyssey that might have been engrossing, but the theme is never properly developed. None of the characters is made to seem more than they are: pampered, self-absorbed athletes dropped into the most horrifying situation imaginable. But honesty doesn't equal good storytelling, and John Patrick Shanley's script may be his weakest work, failing to give its characters much individuality as it rushes from one anti-climax to another, hobbled by clunky dialogue that frequently sounds as if it were poorly translated from Portuguese. Director Frank Marshall mounts the story as tastefully as possible, given the subject matter, but it never seems to have much point and is sometimes unintentionally silly.