Director: J.C. Chandor
Cast: Robert Redford
Release Date: October 25th, 2013
It is a tricky proposition. With little dialogue and the cast consisting of one man— a well-cast Robert Redford— the film All is Lost relies on solid acting skills and great visuals to keep it afloat. Fortunately, cheap Redford delivers a strong performance and the visuals are beautiful but the story’s 106-minute running time does bog this new drama down a bit.
The plot is surprisingly simple yet difficult to explain. As the story begins, Redford’s character — whose name is never disclosed— is composing a letter as he sails in the middle of the Indian Ocean. “I think you can all agree that I tried,” he notes flatly in a voice-over before the film flashes back to the harrowing journey that brought him to the brink of despair.
For most of its running time, audiences will simply watch Redford as he struggles to survive on a small but seemingly comfortable boat. At first, the issues he faces seem minor—at least in his eyes. When his boat springs a leak, many would panic and frantically seek to plug it. The main character here though meticulously works to close it but believes that the boat can be repaired. There’s even a beautiful scene here of the character sleeping on a hammock as water slides back and forth a few feet beneath him.
He’s not panicked. The character knows what he’s doing. So does Redford.
Redford plays his character here as only a distinguished actor here could. In his facial expressions, we watch as the lonely man fights against the odds to stay afloat. At times, his confidence shines through— a minor leak is survivable, he seems to be thinking— but at other times, we watch as his spirit slowly comes to grips with the enormity of the situation.
Writer/ director J.C. Chandor—who previously helmed the underrated Margin Call— clearly knows what he’s doing here and seemingly embraces the small scope of this motion picture. With beautiful cinematography and great shots, All is Lost captures both the breathtaking power of nature and its uncontrollable ability to inflict damage on those who stand in its way.
Despite the story’s strengths though, its limitations do prevent it from succeeding on a larger level. With little dialogue and no background on the main character, it’s hard to care for him even when he’s in obvious peril. Additionally, because he’s the only character around, it’s oftentimes hard to figure out what exactly he’s doing (including a lifeboat incident late in the story).
All is Lost succeeds to a certain experimental extent and I would consider it solid viewing for film fans but others– looking for a more exciting experience– should steer clear.
Review by: John Hanlon