REVIEW: All Is Lost
“All is Lost” is like “Life of Pi” without the tiger. Or like “The Poseidon Adventure” without Shelley Winters. Or Red Buttons. Or Gene Hackman… or anyone, except Robert Redford.
Redford is a nameless sailor on a solo yacht trip on the Indian Ocean. When his thirty-foot boat collides with an abandoned shipping container he must use all his resources to survive.
That’s it. The old man and the sea… and a yacht with a hole in the side. Like “Gravity,” the other recent “adrift in the great yonder” movie, “All is Lost” is an exercise in immersive cinema. Story is secondary to the character’s journey. There is virtually no narrative, just a boiled down man-against-nature plot and a growing sense of desperation as the sailor’s supplies dwindle.
The drama comes from the surroundings, the harsh world recreated by director J.C. Chandor (whose last film “Margin Call” was an overlooked gem). It’s claustrophobic, made doubly intense by watery sound effects and a building feeling of helplessness portrayed on Redford’s face.
The actor is in every frame of the film and although he only speaks a dozen or so lines—many of which are the monosyllabic utterances of distress you’d expect—he manages to create a compelling persona despite the lack of backstory, context or any of the traditional hangers characters get hung on. He is the essence of the film, a man hell bent on survival against increasingly difficult odds.
“All is Lost” is probably more audacious than it is entertaining, but it showcases Chandor’s nimble footed technique and Redford’s effortless star power. Alone and figuratively naked, he holds the screen for the entire 106 minutes, eloquently commenting on the human condition with no words, just action.