The very first scene of the film “The Crawl” takes us to a swimming competition at the University of Florida, Gainesville. It’s a 400-m freestyle relay, and we get to know later that it is practice trials. Kaya Scodelario as Haley has determination writ over the face as she adjusts her cap/google and takes a stance on the diving board. In a flash she is in the water, the dive was excellent. She starts with a powerful underwater dolphin kick and has a good breakout. Her cadence is decent, and the arms follow a rhythmic pattern.
At the 50m mark, as she takes a tumble, she falls behind. The dolphin on the return is sad, and it seems her ATP is finished. She swims the 100 metres like Katie Ledecky when she should have done so like Sarah Sjostrom. She comes in second, is disturbed and recalls her childhood swimming days when her dad would coach her. “Remember, you are the Apex Predator,” he says in the flashback.
But that contention will severely be tested in the ensuing 90 minutes, as a category-five hurricane hits the Florida coast, and her dad is incommunicado. She decides to venture out in the storm to find her dad. After much struggle and search, she does find her dad Dave (played by Barry Pepper) in what is called a crawl space. Which is a small cellar space underneath the house, it has access to all water and electricity connections. When Haley finds her dad, he is blanked out and wounded. He has been attacked by an enormous alligator, that sneaked in from a nearby alligator farm and settled down in the crawl. As Haley retrieves her dad and tries to drag him out of the crawl, the exit is barred by a giant alligator that attacks them.
Barely escaping the gators, the father-daughter duo finds safety in a small confine bordered with steel pipes that blocks the gators from coming in.
Haley brings her father back to his senses, who is surprised to find her there. It’s apparent they don’t share the best of vibes. On knowing that she is coming from a swimming competition, the first thing that he asks her is her split timings. This is just one of the many instances that reveal how swimming is integrated into this thriller film. For example, time and again, we are reminded about the swimming talents of Haley, as her father urges her to dig deeper and stand firm in times of adversities. In doing so, we are taken to past, where Haley is competing in the races, and her dad is cheering on from the deck.
The crawl has its shares of typical thrills and chills, with the alligators gorging on any human that is available for a munch. Hurricane time is almost like a Superbowl event for them. The film is a reminder of the cult classic Jaws, to which it pays a smart little homage at the start. The film did well on the BO, and even the acclaimed director Quentin Tarantino called Crawl his favourite movie of the year 2019.
Yet, the reason the film stands out is because of its integration of swimming. There aren’t many films made on swimming, and some are downright boring like the Lady in the Water by M. Night Shyamalan. While this is not a film on the sports of swimming, it highlights it many ways. In one of the scenes, the father tells her daughter, “you are faster than the gators,” and she does that. Guess what, swimmers indeed are best suited for survival in these adverse conditions. Imagine is Haley played cricket, basketball, or even soccer, would any of it come handy in such life-and-death scenario.
By the way, the crawl is also the name of a swimming stroke. Freestyle as we call it — the face-down swimming with scissor kick — is called as the Front Crawl or at times the Australian crawl. That’s a little more swimming trivia for you.
Come to think of, would Jaws would have been more fun, if Amity Island’s police chief Martin Brody was an ace swimmer? I doubt that after all, even Michael Phelps falls short of the Great white, how would anyone else fair better. SO, I guess Haley should be thankful in a manner that her home was close to an alligator farm and not a shark-infested lagoon.
The Film is now available on Prime Video in India