ALL IS LOST – The Review
For the last few weeks audiences have been flocking to the multiplexes to watch Sandra Bullock alone and adrift in GRAVITY. This week’s new film is a lot closer to home, since it’s set on planet Earth instead of being set above planet Earth. But it’s just as solitary, since its protagonist is miles from another person (at least Sandy had the charming George Clooney as company for a very brief time) in the middle of the ocean. Oh so it’s a riff on THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA, you’re thinking. Well sure, there are many elements mixed in with THE LIFE OF PI, CAST AWAY, and a smidgen of JEREMIAH JOHNSON, the 1972 classic about a guy wanting to live by himself in the harsh wilderness. Yes, ALL IS LOST takes a bit of that film’s plot, but more importantly it shares the same leading man, Hollywood’s eternal golden boy Robert Redford. It’s the Sundance Kid versus the Indian Ocean in a battle to the death.
After a brief flash forward, the film begins as Redford (listed as “Our Man” in the film’s end credits) is awakened on his small sailing craft by the sound of rushing water. A freak collision has caused a rupture in the hull filling the cabin with salt water, which has wrecked his radio, laptop, and several supplies. His relaxing solo voyage quickly turns deadly. Attempts to repair the breach prove futile as do his tries at fixing the radio in order to call for help. His only hope is to learn how to use a sextant and guide the slowly, sinking vessel into the international shipping lanes and attract the attention of a passing freighter. Can he survive the storms, circling sharks, and unrelenting sun before his food and drinking water run out?
It would seem that all the great work that Redford has done in over fifty years on-screen (including much TV) was in preparation for this, perhaps, his most compelling role (not to say that he’s retiring anytime soon since he joins the Marvel world in April’s CAPTAIN AMERICA :WINTER SOLDIER). He’s pretty much the whole show here. We hear him bemoaning his current fate as the film open’s, and, save for some radio distress attempts and frustrated curses, that’s all his dialogue. “Our man” has to emote with his eyes and actions. Those actions are pretty darned impressive for a 77 year-old, whether it’s pulling himself up the main sail or dangling off the side to patch that #@*% breach. But it’s those world-weary crinkling eyes that still draw us in. We see the desperation and, eventually, humility. In the cabin are several snapshots of family and friends who could have joined him onboard, but he thought he could conquer the elements alone. There’s the hope that he can quickly lean to use old nautical skills to locate help. Finally there’s sad resignation and acceptance of an awful fate. This is a Redford we’ve not seen in the movies for a long time and his work is nothing short of dazzling.
This film is a radical departure from the first solo effort of director JC Chandor, the investment banking conspiracy flick MARGIN CALL. He’s more than prepared to go from shadowy boardrooms in Manhattan high rises to the open sea. Chandor directs with confidence knowing when to cut to a close-up of that face made for the movies, or to a wide shot showing how miniscule the sailcraft seems on the vast, empty ocean, or to dive below as danger glides underneath. His use of sound, or lack thereof (much like GRAVITY) is masterful. There’s the cataclysmic roar of thunder during a sudden storm, or the quiet of the rolling waves as the unmerciful sun bakes “our man”. And there’s an eerie subtle score by Alex Ebert that stealthy sneaks in for just the correct effect. Theatres have been packed with thrillers that believe audiences can only be grabbed by over-the-top CGI-enahnced destruction.This film proves that a simple story of one man (albeit the last of the great movie leading men) trying to survive on is own can be much more riveting than what the EFX folks can digitally whip up. ALL IS LOST is a new dramatic adventure classic.
4.5 Out of 5