Review: All Is Lost
A lone man sailing the Indian Ocean awakens to find a hole in his boat and a dangerous storm approaching. He uses what resources are at his disposal, along with his cunning and wisdom, to avoid certain death and survive the journey.
Robert Redford and only Robert Redford.
Following a dejected monologue, which turns out nearing all of the spoken words in the film, All is Lost begins with a strange, uncertain image, the first of many moments that keep you in unpredictable space.
We’re taken back a week prior to this heartfelt admission and ominous visual, jolted into the time and space by a loud crash – the sailboat on which our man is venturing encounters a felled shipping container set adrift. It’s a nod to the globalization of the world, and yet our protagonist, who has set out on a solitary journey, is perhaps trying to get away from civilization.
We know nothing of his past, his motives, or even his name – he is credited in fact as Our Man. With measured actions and a determined spirit, he is relatable while anonymous. He has sandy hair, a wrinkled face that has seen much of the world, but as much fortitude as a man half his age (Redford, in this physically demanding performance where he did his own stunts, is 77-years-old).
The sudden hole is the first of many obstacles in his path; the final destination, as well as the point of origin, is just one of the many unknowns, but it matters not. He is perhaps an everyman, and as much a physical presence as he is a spiritual, mental, and emotional one.
It’s not about man versus nature though, and entirely about man versus himself. There are surely to be some in the audience, admittedly this writer included, that would have neither the sailing acumen nor the survivalist spirit to wage such a battle against certain defeat. From patching up the hole to draining the cabin, to climbing the mast to recovering after a spill overboard, Our Man is a staggeringly evocative character that has purpose in life.
Directed by J.C. Chandor with effective realism and palpable tension from start to finish (he is credited as the writer, though there is virtually nothing to be written), All is Lost has a foreboding title and opening, though the fate of our intrepid hero is never sure. Even when it seems he is having the worst luck, which at times does come close to bordering on incredulity, he maintains hope – and so do you.
Redford, unquestionably, is impressive with a role in which only few could have a chance at success. He is the only character, and Chandor’s camera follows him intimately, and like Gravity and Captain Phillips, you are a part of the perilous drama, engaged, and exhausted.
And, well, wet too – maybe even seasick. The sounds of the waves, the roll of the boat, and the gusts of wind envelop you in a film that has an imposing and daunting setting. With little language, an anonymous character, and open water on to the horizon, All is Lost sets itself apart and will leave you breathless and spellbound until the final, telling moment.
Should You See It?
Absolutely, and right away. It’s an unforgettable, impactful, and powerful cinematic experience.