ALL IS LOSTDirector: J.C. Chandor
Cast: Robert Redford
Genre: Drama, Adventure
Run Time: 106 mins
Opens: 20 February 2014
Rating: PG13 (Brief Coarse Language)
At some risk of reprisal, allow us to say this: move aside Chuck Norris, Robert Redford is here to claim the title of all-American badass aged over-70. All Is Lost isn’t a documentary about obsessive fans of the J. J. Abrams television series with the not-quite-so-satisfying ending – it’s a tale of man against the elements, and the elements are out of luck because that man is the Sundance Kid himself.
Our Man (Redford, and otherwise unnamed) is on the sailboat Virginia Jean, in the middle of the Indian Ocean. All is calm and leisurely, until the first of his problems: an errant shipping container strikes his boat, creating a hole in the side of it. He goes to work patching up the breached hull and crafting a makeshift handle for the bilge pump to get rid of the water that has leaked into the boat. He also discovers his navigational and communication equipment has been damaged. Things get worse for Our Man, as they must, and he finds himself caught in the midst of a violent storm, his boat taking on more damage and his supplies running low as he fights for survival and hopes to get rescued.
All Is Lost is the second feature film from writer-director J.C. Chandor, who goes from depicting the Wall Street bailout in Margin Call (nominated for a Best Original Screenplay Oscar) to showcasing Robert Redford bailing water out of a leaky boat. All is Lost has garnered attention for its unconventional, experimental aspects: it truly is a one man show, with Redford the only actor who appears on screen. The film is also largely dialogue-free, Alex Ebert’s Golden Globe-winning score doing most of the talking. It almost brings to mind the first 20 minutes of, WALL-E, except with less wonderment and whimsy.
Director of photography Frank G. Demarco and underwater cinematographer Peter Zuccarini deliver a visually beautiful film, the harsh churning of the ocean contrasted with serene visions of schools of fish beneath a life raft as seen from below. The film has a tendency to come across like one of those survival skills TV shows like Bear Grylls’ Worst Case Scenario. A problem comes up, Our Man tries to fix it. Another problem comes up, Our Man tries to fix it. Most of the time, Our Man improves the situation but sometimes, he makes ill-advised decisions from the fatigue.
Sailing enthusiasts have ripped into the movie the same way most astronauts probably scoffed at Gravity, pointing out myriad factual inaccuracies which probably won’t bother you unless you’re an expert at this stuff. Apparently, Our Man would have saved himself a lot of trouble if he had an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB), a locator device that is standard equipment for open-water sailing.
But then again, practically every movie about anything can be picked apart by the cognoscenti and the main draw here is Robert Redford’s much-praised performance. We can safely say that he’s the best actor in the film…apart from maybe that one shark. Every actor longs to hold court as the lone figure on screen for a whole movie but not every actor can. Redford proves himself more than capable as the wizened, weary mariner, the old man and the sea, the Pi without a Richard Parker for company. The nuances in his facial expressions, masterfully conveying frustration, anger, desperation, joy, exhaustion, resignation and most of all an underlying, unexplained sadness are engaging. He also gets more battered than a double serving of fish and chips, and you’ve got to feel something seeing the living legend take quite the beating from Mother Nature. Redford ensures we want to see Our Man succeed and make it out of the ordeal in one piece.
All Is Lost certainly deserves credit for being markedly different than most things in the cinema but there’s a risk in that. The film has a running time of 106 minutes which, compared to the likes of the Lord of the Rings films and the recent Wolf of Wall Street isn’t all that long but boy, this sure is a drag. We reckon this might have worked better as a forty minute-long short film instead of a feature and that it might well have had a chance at the best live action short Oscar were that the case. All Is Lost isn’t particularly entertaining, nor is it solemnly impactful in a Schindler’s List kind of way, it sort of floats in limbo. However, it’s worth a watch to see Redford still bringing it at 77. Who needs all those Expendables, right?
SUMMARY: “I’ll never let go, Bob!”
RATING: 3.5 out of 5 Stars