Survival films tap into a very strange part of our brains; one that appears to be entertained by the idea of impending doom. For the life of us, we can’t tell you why we get so much enjoyment out of watching these characters battle ever-shortening odds, suffering all the way. But we just do.
Maybe it’s the triumph over adversity that does it? Whatever the case, it’s a formula for drama that really works.
Take a look at The Revenant, which involves Leonardo Di Caprio trudging through a hell of a lot of snow, fighting bears and hostile enemies along the way, and is generating some serious Oscar buzz after its hefty Golden Globe haul.
We love the ‘never say die’ attitude, so with that in mind, here are some cracking survival movies on Netflix, where you can watch the good guys perform incredible feats in the name of living.
All Is Lost
During a solo sailing voyage on his yacht in a remote part of the ocean, an unnamed protagonist (Robert Redford) is horrified when his boat collides with a shipping container, causing his vessel to leak. Despite his best efforts, our man realises that he will soon be under the water, and the movie deals with his frantic attempts at survival, as well as hinting at his own personal troubles.
It’s a classic survival story, with nail biting sequences from the off. Film’s like Titanic and Life of Pi touch on the whole ‘oceanic survival’ idea, but neither of those films really access the raw emotion and desperate feelings that this one does. Redford’s frustration shines throughout, and as well as being thrilling in subject matter, it makes a poignant point about human will and mortality.
Robyn (Mia Wasikowska), longing for some solitude in her life, makes the decision to walk 2,000 miles across the Australian outback with only four camels and her trusty dog in tow – a journey most consider impossible. Her journey is catalogued by a National Geographic photographer, but the majority, featuring all of the natural perils you would associate with the Australian outback, is undertaken alone.
Based on the real story of Robyn Davidson, the movie flips constantly between existential euphoria and nauseating fear, both embodying Robyn’s determination to meet her goal – and wrestle her inner demons. What the movie is really about is personal evolution, and it’s powerfully done.
Living on One Dollar
This documentary follows four filmmaker friends as they embark on a quest to live on one dollar each, per day, in the Guatemalan wilderness. With only a small shack to live in, the quartet first figure out a way to eat regularly, before interacting with the population around them, giving us an insight into not only their task, but the lives of the Guatemalan people.
Ultimately, this movie is about poverty, and the extent to which capitalist societies take their lives for granted. A well-worn topic perhaps, but in this format the message isn’t shallow. Seeing the extent of the people’s poverty really does hit home the importance of perspective.
No Country for Old Men
Oscar-winning tension, with a compelling central tread. No Country for Old Men centres its plot on a cache of money that has been abandoned in the desert after a gone-south drug deal, and right at the start of the movie, we see Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) find the cash. But his new found wealth is sought after by powerful criminals, who set Chigurh (Javier Bardem), an intimidating hitman, on his trail.
Llewelyn works as our reference point for the story, and most of the plot is told through his eyes, as he dips and dives across American attempting to throw off the tail of Chigurh. There’s the same sense of impending danger as any other survival movie, and although Chirgurh is very much human, his talent with a weapon and his relentless, emotionless stance instill a sense of hopelessness.
Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber and Jamie Bell star as the three Bielski brothers: Polish-Jewish freedom fighters who recruited and saved many in Eastern Europe during World War II. In hiding from the Nazis, the group take residence in a rural part of the country.
There are an abundance of World War II period dramas, granted, but Defiance is different. The movie taps into a different side of the war, and one that would otherwise be overshadowed by the usual ‘front lines’ account. Unlike most war movies, it isn’t about fighting and winning, but surviving by any means necessary, and Craig’s stony persona works perfectly to this end.
Kajaki is also based on a true story, drawing on events that took place in 2006 Afghanistan. A three-man patrol of British soldiers are dispatched to disable a Taliban roadblock. The mission doesn’t go as planned however, and soon the trio find themselves trapped in an unmarked mine field, knowing that one wrong move could mean the end of their lives.
The movie gives a valuable insight into modern day military operations, and is a refreshing change of pace from the usual hyperbolic, super-soldier flicks we normally see churned out. There is an ever-present sense of danger, anticipation and anxiety, helping the audience to establish a powerful sense of empathy for the characters at hand.