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Alive is a 1993 film by the husband and wife team, director Frank Marshall and producer Kathleen Kennedy. It is based upon Piers Paul Read's acclaimed 1974 book, Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors (which itself was based upon interviews with survivors of the crash of Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571marker on October 13, 1972).

One of the survivors, Nando Parrado, (portrayed by Ethan Hawke in the film) served as the technical advisor to the film. Alive is narrated by John Malkovich.

The Survivors

Sixteen out of the 45 passengers survived. The film includes some additional fictional incidents to add action to the story. Actual survivor Nando Parrado was on hand during much of the filming as technical advisor. Nando's mother died instantly in the crash and his sister died in his arms after being on the mountain for nine days.


See main article: The crash and rescue

The film tells the story of a Uruguayanmarker rugby team (who were alumni of Stella Maris College)and their friends and family who were involved in the aircraft crash of Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571marker which crashed into the Andes mountains on October 13, 1972.


The film opens with a number of photos taken by the father of one of the survivors, Carlitos, which introduces some of the members of the team, including Nando Parrado (Ethan Hawke) (the real Nando Parrado appears a bit later in a picture of the team as their coach) and Antonio (Vincent Spano), the team captain. The film then shifts to a small opening monologue by old Carlitos (John Malkovich). After that, it shifts to 1972 as Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571marker transports members of Stella Maris College's Old Christians rugby team and their family and friends to play a match in Chile. However, during the flight, the plane crashes on a unknown peak (later called the Glacier of Tears) in the Andes. The tail and wings of the plane are ripped off, and some of the passengers fall out of the plane. The fuselage slides down a mountain slope before stopping.

Overall, 12 people die from the crash, including the pilots and Nando's mother, Eugenia. Nando himself is knocked into a coma but comes to a few days later. His sister dies from her injuries nine days after the crash. The remaining passengers are forced to face very cold weather in nothing but street clothes. A few of the passengers suffer some bad injuries, mainly broken legs when the aircraft's seats piled up. All they have are some cigarettes, chocolate, some assorted snacks and bottles of wine. They are forced to divide the food into very small amounts so their supply wouldn't run out quickly.

Unfortunately, this supply dwindles quickly and there are no vegetation or animals on the mountain. A few days later, the search for the survivors is called off. Finally, the remaining survivors decide to eat the flesh of their dead comrades. Some of the passengers initially refuse to do it, as they do not want to be called cannibals but eventually agree to the decision. Only two of the team players are medical students, one of which is 19-year old Roberto Canessa (Josh Hamilton).

To make matters worse for the survivors, an avalanche hits the plane, covering the interior of the fuselage in snow. Some manage to get out, but 8 people die, including Antonio (although in reality, another passenger named Antonio actually survived the avalanche and escaped the mountain). Finally, the survivors decide to go for help. Earlier rescue attempts failed. The survivors send Canessa and Parrado to find help. After a 12 day trek, the two get out of the mountains and find help for their comrades. As helicopters land at the plane's location, the other 14 survivors celebrate. The film then returns to old Carlitos, who explains that the survivors later returned to the crash site and buried the bodies of their dead comrades under a pile of stones a half-mile from the site. The grave site is marked with a cross. The film then shows the memorial and displays the film's dedication to the 29 who died on the mountain and the 16 who survived as the credits roll. Box Office intake was 36,733,909 worldwide.



The score by James Newton Howard has had a second life (particularly the rousing end credit theme) in film trailers, in similar usage as the themes from The Joy Luck Club, Dragonheart and Braveheart.


The film received generally good reviews, with a 70% average rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Some focused their criticism on the physical characteristics of the cast, arguing that it should have been chosen mainly from actors of Southern European ancestries (i.e. Spanishmarker and Italianmarker, according to the demographic composition of Uruguay), instead of Northern European. However, it should be noted that several of the survivors actually were Uruguayans of Northern European descent (British, Irish, French, German, etc.) such as Roy Harley, Bobby François, Víctor Bolarich, and the Strauchs. In this regard the passengers were representative of the generally privileged clientele of their school, rather than of Uruguayan society as a whole.

David Ansen said that, while, "Piers Paul Read's acclaimed book ... paid special attention to the social structure that evolved among the group ... Marshall ... downplays the fascinating sociological details—and the ambiguities of character—in favor of action, heroism and a vague religiosity that's sprinkled over the story like powdered sugar."

Others, such as Ray Green, praised the tactful nature of the film stating that, "despite the potential for lurid sensationalism, Marshall manages to keep his and the film's dignity by steering an effectively downbeat course through some grim goings on thanks in no small manner to the almost allegorical ring of Shanley's stylized dialogue." Green continues by describing the film as, "thrilling and engrossing as it is at times, Alive is more than an action film—in its own way it is also a drama of ideas, and of the human spirit as well."

Roger Ebert wrote "There are some stories you simply can't tell. The story of the Andes survivors may be one of them." He also questioned the realism of how normal the actors' bodies looked after portraying two months of near starvation.


The film is rated PG-13 for crash scenes too intense for unaccompanied children.


A companion documentary, Alive: 20 Years Later, was released at the same time as the film. It includes interviews with the survivors, as well as documentary footage of the rescue. The 30th Anniversary Edition of Alive: The Miracle of the Andes (on DVD) includes this documentary in the Extras section.


  1. Ansen, David. "Alive." Newsweek (January 18, 1993), 59.
  2. Green, Ray. "Alive." Box Office (March 1993).

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