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‘Stranded: I’ve Come From a Plane that Crashed in the Mountains’ – A Who2 Review

Movie Review:  Stranded: I’ve Come from a Plane that Crashed in the Mountains
Viewed on:  A late Saturday afternoon in Cincinnati, Ohio
Pre-movie meal:  Dewey’s Pizza (half ‘Bronx Bomber’ and half ‘Socrates’ Revenge’) and a pint of Dewey’s house ale

First we saw ‘Avatar’ in 3-D at a 1:00 matinee at the local theater.  Then, buzzed from the wild visuals, we came home and saw this DVD that’s at the other end of the movie-experience spectrum.

Stranded: I’ve Come from a Plane that Crashed in the Mountains (a clumsy title, yes) is a 2007 documentary about the same 1972 plane crash that was covered in the famous Piers Paul Read book Alive.  That paperback was iconic in my teens; everybody read it and a copy always seemed to be kicking around in high school classrooms or my friends’ homes.  I can still see the blue and white cover in my mind’s eye: ALIVE!

The movie is equally gripping. The story, in brief: The airplane carrying a local youth rugby team from Uruguay crashes in the mountains in a snowstorm on its way to Chile for a friendly match. The players are mostly 19 and 20, and some have parents or family with them. 45 were on the plane in all, and 29 survived the initial accident. But in the terrible frozen conditions, only 16 survived the full 72 days until they were rescued. The starving survivors finally resorted to eating the frozen bodies of the dead, which they carved up with shards of broken glass and plastic from the plane.

The filmmakers took some of the survivors back to the site of the crash in 2006, and the movie follows their narrative. (The film’s in Spanish with subtitles.) The survivors are older now, but not that much older: in their mid-50s, mostly, some with children who come with them to the site.

The cannibalism is really a small part of their story, even though it quickly became the tabloid hook of the whole incident. (Which didn’t take long: the survivors returned home to newspaper headlines of “CANNIBALISMO!”) Their choice makes perfect sense in context, even if most of the survivors knew the dead and had known them for years.

In a way, it may have helped that they knew each other; the living were able to treat the cannibalism as a kind of intimate friend-helping-friend thing in their minds. Which it probably was. In any case, they weren’t really chowing down on liver with Chianti, Hannibal-style; they were only able to carve tiny slivers of flesh with their crummy tools.

For quite a bit of their time on the mountains, the survivors had a working radio receiver. They could even hear themselves being talked about on the news after the crash, when search parties found nothing. Then a few days later, to their dismay, they were not being talked about. They were on their own.

Weeks of rugged survival past and pretty soon it’s November and December, which is spring in the southern hemisphere. The survivors hope to hold out until the thaw, when they can send a walking party of three men out to try and bring help. But the question becomes: how long can they wait for the thaw before they’re too starved and exhausted to move at all?

We found the film quite gripping, even knowing how the story ends.  The survivors are calm and practical about the whole ordeal, remembering parts with humor and parts with grim stoicism. Amazing stuff. Recommended for all ages.

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