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SXSW Review: ‘The Last Cruise’

March 17, 2021Ben MK

Imagine being trapped aboard a floating prison while a sinister force slowly picked off your fellow inmates one by one, and you knew that it was only a matter of time before you would be next. That's the predicament the passengers and crew of the Diamond Princess cruise liner found themselves in, as their dream voyage became a nightmare breeding ground for a deadly new virus called COVID-19.

Directed by Hannah Olson, HBO's The Last Cruise puts viewers right in the middle of what was then the world's largest COVID-19 outbreak — a situation that most of us only watched unfold on the nightly news. For those who lived through it to tell the tale, however, the experience was both surreal and terrifying. Utilizing cell phone and home video footage, as well as on-camera interviews with some of the real-life survivors, Olson paints a picture of just how quickly the very things we all take for granted — such as our health and our basic freedoms — can be taken away from us, especially we're facing a threat that hasn't been fully quantified.

A fascinating addition to the growing list of documentaries about the Coronavirus pandemic, the result may or may not do for cruise vacations what Jaws did for open water swimming. Nonetheless, this is essential viewing for those looking to expand their knowledge about our current world health crisis.

The Last Cruise screens under the Documentary Shorts Competition section at the 2021 South by Southwest Film Festival. Its runtime is 40 min.

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