Producer-turned-director Frank Marshall and producer-partner-spouse Kathleen Kennedy have chosen the true story (already told by 1976 Par release Survive!) of a 1970s plane crash in which the survivors, a rugby team, held on for more than two months in the subfreezing Andes largely by eating the corpses of the victims.
Marshall and writer John Patrick Shanley [adapting Piers Paul Read’s book] deal with the topic seriously, exploring the survivors desperation as well as their reluctance, down to an ethical debate prior to the initial meal, to engage in cannibalism.
It doesn’t help that character personalities generally aren’t distinct enough to keep track of who’s who throughout the story, leaving the audience to empathize only generally. Heightening the problem is a strong resemblance among actors, including leads Ethan Hawke and Josh Hamilton.
For all its action elements, Alive also puts on some rather pretentious airs, among them a musical coda of Ave Maria and bookending an uncredited John Malkovich as one of the survivors, 20 years later.