Review: “All Is Lost”

All Is Lost

Ever wonder how long you could make it lost at sea with a sinking boat? For a 77-year-old, Robert Redford does just fine.

Redford plays the unnamed character “Our Man” in the film “All Is Lost”, a 106-minute study of an old sailor who must do everything he can to survive at sea after a shipping container strikes his boat.

If you’re looking for dialogue, this may not be the film for you. Aside from an opening monologue by Redford, there are maybe 15 spoken words throughout the whole film. But if you’re willing to look past that, there’s a great film to be watched.

There are many critics who are eager to give Redford the Oscar for Best Actor and, having seen the film, it’s easy to understand why. You can often say that an actor’s performance carries a film, but it’s a little rarer for that actor to be the only one who appears onscreen. Redford gives a subtle and captivating performance that makes up for the fact that we almost never hear him speak.

“All Is Lost” is only the second feature film from writer/director J.C. Chandor whose first film, “Margin Call”, was one of the best of 2011. Unlike this film, “Margin Call” is a big ensemble piece concerning the recent financial crisis. For “All Is Lost”, Chandor trades out conversations on insider trading for the haunting beauty of the sea.

Though Redford’s performance may be the headline of the film, there’s more to offer than just the actor’s comeback. Chandor’s minimalist approach makes a film that could have been a big Hollywood production feel that much more real. The only shots that feel like a movie are ones that place the camera below sea level gazing up at Redford’s life raft and, honestly, they are too beautiful to complain about.

For all of its good qualities, there is one aspect of the film that a small group of people have a big problem with. According to many in the sailing community, there are certain devices that Redford’s character should have had at his disposal to combat the problems his character faces in the film. While it’s not a big deal for 95% of moviegoers, it should at least be pointed out. Especially in a film like “All Is Lost” where realism is one of the biggest attributes being thrown around.

With that aspect of realism out of the way, one thing that did make the film different from others like it is that Redford is extremely calm through the majority of his character’s plight. Waking up to see water rushing across the cabin floor, he meticulously gets up to inspect the damage and repairs the leak without flipping out the way one would expect.

“All Is Lost” takes its time, but never feels slow. Between its beautiful, but deadly, setting and one of the best performances of Redford’s career, it makes for a simplistically fascinating film at a time of year otherwise dominated by hobbits and Norse gods.

Grade: B+

See These Movies – The Shawshank Redemption

I’d also like to tell you about a new video series (link above) a few friends and I have put together where we look at older classics and talk about what we love or what we think is overrated. Even though we are all under the age of 30, I promise we’ll cover some films older than say, 1994. Please check it out and let me know what you think. (PS-I already know I completely look like a lumberjack)

Happy viewing.


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