Life onboard ship barely leaves any time or energy for the seafarer to thoroughly enjoy a book or pursue a hobby in the spare time! The single most engaging art form and favourite to the majority would be movies. There are very few pleasures akin to one derived from kicking back in one’s own cabin after work and putting on a quality film as the body gradually falls asleep, giving in to the hard day’s labour.
Seafarers get plenty excited when a film has got anything to do with the sea, delving deep into it and always backing the interesting scenes up with some commentary on the go! We’ve compiled a list of 5 such films that depict survival at sea. Although fictional, each of them put the whole life at sea aspect into perspective.
1. Cast Away: Perhaps the most popular of them all, this adventurous Tom Hanks film from the year 2000 earned him an academy award nomination l for best actor. Chuck Noland, played by Hanks, is a troubleshooter for FedEx who gets called to Malaysia for work. In transit, the plane he is on crashes in the Pacific. Chuck aka Hanks survives this ordeal, ending up in an island that he discovers is uninhabited. The film follows his survival in the island where he has a ball that he names Wilson for company; it’s his only mode of socialisation. Shot in Fiji, this film is a testament to the human spirit which refuses to give up and undoubtedly a fantastic watch.
2. Unbroken: Produced as well as directed by Angelina Jolie, this 2014 film is based on a book by the same name. This film is about Olympian Louis Zamperini (played by Jack O’ Connell) who survives a near fatal plane crash. He spends a testing 47 days in a raft following which he makes his way into a Japanese camp as a prisoner of war (the Pearl Harbour bombings around the time had a caused a lot of animosity between the two nations). The remaining is a story of him through the war camps, a story of will and patriotism.
3. All Is Lost: This 2013 Robert Redford starrer is different in very unique way- Redford is the only cast in the film! Not too many words are spoken with the movie mainly focused on his acting. It follows his time on a boat which is ruptured in the hull. While being able to control immediate damage, the saltwater intrusion messes up his communication equipment. An incoming storm causes ruckus and his boat capsizes, leaving him on his life raft with basic necessities. The events that ensue are interesting as this man tries all his tricks and knowhow to stay alive.
4. Life of Pi: Ang Lee is an absolute genius to have directed this film so beautifully. Starring the immensely talented Irrfan Khan, he narrates the story of Pi Patel (himself) and his survival at sea after a shipwreck that leaves him and a Bengal Tiger on the boat! Very few films do any justice to the book but this definitely does it for Yann Martel’s 2001 novel by the same name. This film earned many accolades, garnering eleven nominations at the Academy Awards. Life of Pi is a life lesson in its entirety and a primer on feeling alive and full of emotions. A legendary quote from the book/film goes “I suppose in the end, this whole of life becomes an act of letting go, but what hurts the most is not taking a moment to say goodbye.”
5. In The Heart Of The Sea: Those who have read Moby Dick must be holding it close to their heart for it is a phenomenal piece of literature. This film is based on the novel of the same name that is about the sinking of the whaling ship Essex, events that inspired the birth of Moby Dick! This 2015 film is directed by Ron Howard of A Beautiful Mind and The Da Vinci Code fame. It starts with the depiction of Herman Melville, the author of Moby Dick, wanting to know the story behind Essex. So obviously, the story moves with great similarity to the novel, switching to 1820s Nantucket. It’s got a good storyline and with the amazing ending- as Herman Melville has heard the whole story, he begins his work on Moby Dick with the legendary line “Call Me Ishmael”. No Captain Ahab in this one though!
As far as stories like these go, there are many more films of the same or similar genre that depict the human will to survive under nature’s testing circumstances. Needless, the five of them above should be watched by all especially by non seafarers to try and fathom the perils faced when the sea is rough and unforgiving. After all, the merchant navy isn’t all travel and money!
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Shilavadra Bhattacharjee is a shipbroker with a background in commercial operations after having sailed onboard as a Third Officer. His interests primarily lie in the energy sector, books and travelling.