All is Lost

If you don’t like Robert Redford, you probably shouldn’t see this movie.  He is the entire cast of this film.  There is almost no dialog and his character isn’t even named.  IMDB refers to him only as “Our Man.”  This is man against nature boiled down to its essentials.

Redford plays a man sailing alone in the middle of the Indian Ocean.  While he is taking a nap below decks his boat collides with a partially submerged shipping container which pokes a hole in the starboard side.  Unfortunately the hole is right above the area where he keeps his radio, which shorts out in the ensuing cascade.

He’s able to mend the hole with a flimsy looking fiberglass patch, and he tries to fix the radio but can’t.  His navigation system is gone as well.  But he has plenty of food and water and things don’t look too bad.

Then the storm hits and things get worse from there.

Robert Redford, over the years, has become a decent actor.  He’s never going to be DeNiro or Pacino or anybody like that.    But nobody can have a career as long as Redford’s and not pick up a few tricks.  Plus he’s always had an on screen charm that makes him popular at the box office.

Here he has an especially tough acting challenge.  The script gives his character no background story.  There is no dialog to give us insight into his personality.  All Redford is left with is his face and his body.   And he succeeds to take the character from stoic confidence to doubt and finally to despair and desperation.

What we can tell is that our man is successful because it’s a nice boat.  He also seems to prefer his own company and has apparently driven away those closest to him because of his stubborn self-reliance.  He writes a goodbye note at one point, apologizing to presumably relatives or a spouse.  Our man is smart.  At one point he teaches himself to navigate.  All he has is a book and a sextant he’s never taken out of the box.  His reliance on technology at first seems to be justified, but nature just keeps on pounding, forcing him, at the end, to do something stupid and desperate to have a chance of rescue.

All is Lost was written and directed by J.C. Chandor, who also did Margin Call, which ironically is all dialog.  He does a good job of making clear what our man is doing, without the luxury of explaining it in words.  His script builds nicely and is very tightly constructed.  Water shoots are very difficult but he seems to have handled this one well.

All is lost is a unique film and one of the better ones to come out this year.  Besides who doesn’t like Robert Redford?

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