“The Boat” is a brand new Mystery/Thriller film produced by Latina Pictures and Hurricane Films and Co-Written and Directed by Winston Azzopardi. The Boat centers around an anonymous man (played by Co-Writer/Actor Joe Azzopardi) who while fishing, stumbles upon an abandoned sailboat and eventually becomes trapped on it. I’ve been wanting to circumnavigate these waters for a while now as the premise sounded intriguing. I’m quite fascinated with the mechanics of stories that involve minimal characters and locations. Wasn’t it Steven Spielberg who said don’t ever shoot a movie on water? Well, evidently, the Azzopardi pairing didn’t get that memo, or did and chose to sail on due north anyway… okay that’s quite enough of the nautical puns – now onto the review.
It’s glaringly obvious from the opening tracking shot, in which our sailor leaves his domicile headed straight for a gaudy tinny and out to sea, that this film was going to boast the highest of production values. Polish DP, Marek Traskowski employs a number of really gorgeous shots on location in the waters of Malta, and when the film transitions into its controlled portion, Daniel Lapira’s tight edit ensures that it does so coherently. Footage on and around the boat looks superb. It puts you in the moment, but does so in a way that’s visually pleasing and doesn’t induce a headache. Through acute sound design and a moody score by Lachlan Anderson, Winston captures perfectly the endlessness of the ocean and the fear of isolation that one can imagine would come from being lost in the middle of it. Doing so by deploying severe changes in weather and atmosphere over the course of the ninety minutes. The man finds himself drifting into a heavy mist, then shortly thereafter taking in a beautiful blue sky ahead of what ultimately becomes a dire survival situation when a big storm hits.
The Boat can accurately be described as a slow-burn, but in actual fact, the pacing is much more fluent than perhaps that label would ordinarily suggest. Although you’re stuck with only one character and virtually no dialogue, things are never boring. The unnamed fisherman first hops aboard the sailboat to see if anyone’s actually on it and quickly discovers remnants of people. Before long, he realizes that his boat is gone and he’s stuck. From there, things just continue to get worse as he attempts to call for help, gets locked in the bathroom, and finds himself on a collision course with a shipping container. Azzopardi gives it his all in what’s clearly an emotionally and physically demanding role. Irrespective of some of his decision making, the character means well when he stumbles across the vessel and what he gets in return is nothing short of taxing. If you’ve ever been trapped before then you’ll certainly be able to relate to at least one particular helpless scenario Azzopardi winds up in. Not that you’d know it, but there’s also plenty of visual fx work that went into The Boat and it all looks very impressive. Weather changes are introduced seamlessly and the storm is impressive.
Some of the character’s decision making had me shaking my head more than a few times though, and that somewhat dented his credibility. A poor choice was made in not fastening his tinny to the larger sailboat, and after a previous lengthy battle with a door lock, he later lets a second door close behind him (clearly something you wouldn’t do again). He leaves a small window hatch open and pays the price when the storm hits, though I’m not sure why he didn’t just turn the snibs and shut it in order to stop the water flowing in? Fortunately, our sailor also shows some nous at times. Prior to nightfall and with arms outstretched through a hatch, he attempts to salvage some rope and a few bits and pieces to use. I was disappointed in his design for the rope, as I initially thought he was going to utilize the mast and strong wind and tie the rope to the bathroom door or its lock with the hopes of pulling it off the hinge, but alas. However, his resourcefulness does become more evident when he builds a makeshift raft encase of the need to abandon ship. On the other hand, he has a map and compass (I think?) yet can’t seem to get his bearings (I know I said no more puns but I couldn’t resist). The final ten or fifteen minutes of The Boat headed in the direction I figured it would, and it’s fittingly eerie, but with absent detailing of origins or methodology, you’re not left with a whole lot to extract. The duo of writers has clearly derived the machinations of this story around other-worldly mysteries from something like The Bermuda Triangle.
I had high expectations for The Boat and overall I think it’s risky filmmaking at its finest. Props must go to father and son and all those involved with the making of this film. It draws on the likes of Stephen King’s “Christine”, by way of a survival film like “All Is Lost” or the contained thriller “Dead Calm”. A nice mix of all three and melded by top-notch cinematography, effective sound design, and a great score. Joe’s one-man show is an achievement in an of itself and the fisherman’s plight kept me on the edge of my seat for the duration. There are a few weak patches of writing and active plot devices that are clearly introduced just to propel the narrative forward, that and the lack of a basic “why” regarding all of it probably hurts the end result to some extent. Still, if you’re a fan of these thrillers on the open sea I suggest you give The Boat a viewing because it’s one of the best there’s been for quite a while. The film is currently available on Amazon (the US only) and available on DVD from the 1st of October. You can check out the official trailer below!
The Boat – 7/10