Thirty men and one female stowaway, longing to leave their impoverished existence in Africa, make a treacherous ocean voyage from Senegal to Spain. A better life awaits them—or so they think. Moussa Touré’s frequently gripping adventure film sketches the travelers’ personalities broadly yet vividly, from the waterphobic neurotic who desperately holds on to his pet chicken to the fast-talking huckster whose reasons for organizing the trip are far from altruistic. The closest we get to a full-on protagonist is Baye Laye (Souleymane Seye Ndiaye), a fisherman in need of cash who reluctantly captains the flat-bottomed vessel, known as a pirogue, that is as likely to be a coffin as it is a conveyance.
Dangers are plentiful—engines breaking down; food running out; mutiny, Mr. Christian!—and narrative surprises sparse. You’ve seen just about every incident before, and Touré details the varying fates of his ensemble in ways that are too often glibly poetic. Nonetheless, the director shows a deft hand with the briny action, notably with a terrifying storm sequence in which the pirogue is mercilessly battered about in thunderclap-accentuated darkness. There’s enough filmmaking talent evident throughout that you wish the journey were more satisfying overall.
Follow Keith Uhlich on Twitter: @keithuhlich