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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 43.75%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 6.25%

2 reviews, 4 user ratings

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All Is Lost
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Jay Seaver

"You might just find more than you expect."
5 stars

At times, "All Is Lost" presents itself as pure problem-solving porn: No speaking, no backstory, not necessarily even much of a sense that filmmaker J.C. Chandor has anything else on his mind besides just showing what's happening to its nameless protagonist. That is, in fact, all it needs, but Chandor, star Robert Redford, and company put plenty more in for the audience to unpack.

Things start out simply enough: A man (Redford) is sailing in the middle of the Indian Ocean on his own, and is awakened by water sloshing around the cabin of his yacht. A container full of sneakers has fallen off a merchant ship, crossed the path of the Virginia Jean, and ripped a gash in the side of the 39-foot vessel, incidentally shorting out the electronic navigation and communication equipment. This doesn't seem like anything beyond our man's ability to handle, but that doesn't take an approaching storm into account.

That's not quite where the movie starts; it actually opens with a bit of pessimistic voice-over followed by an "eight days earlier" caption, and that may be Chandor setting himself up with a challenge: Some in the audience are going to start counting day/night cycles at that point, and it's a sign of just how good a job Chandor does as director that it's still quite possible to lose track of that number as the audience gets caught up in the moment on the one hand while on the other, the solitude and distance makes time meaningless. The audience gets locked into this man's perspective as to start seeing the world as he does, something a great many films try to achieve, though few do.

Part of it may be that he's a fairly blank slate; the opening narration implies that there is someone important in his life but can also be read as there being a rift between them. Redford delivers a great performance regardless; there's something to the unpanicked way he goes about repairing his boat that suggests more than just competence. Defiance, perhaps, or a sort of rebuke to someone who said he couldn't handle this voyage alone. He does this without speaking, for the most part - there are about five lines in the entire film - but even if part of what's going on in his head is open to interpretation, there's a lot clearly communicated, from the moment when he opens a box and seems to say "okay, I have a sextant - now what?" to the moments when despair finally starts to overtake him. It doesn't hurt at all that Redford is kind of ideal for the part physically - spry, but still old enough that his experience comes at the price of a measured pace, and with the sort of build and complexion that shows the toll that the open sea takes on a man right away.

Redford's performance and Chandor's careful construction (with the help of editor Pete Beaudreau) make for such good storytelling that it might be easy to overlook just how technically impressive All Is Lost is for such a relatively small production. It's not just a matter of the gorgeous cinematography by Frank G. DeMarco and Peter Zucarini or what must be some fantastic hidden effects work - after all, it's not like they're going to wait for word of a life-threatening storm and stick Redford in the middle. It's the sound design where something about the ship sounding off alerts the audience to danger at the same time as the character, or how perfectly ominous clouds on the horizon can be. There's no room in a movie meant to put the audience into a character's situation for visible cracks, and the filmmakers certainly hide them well, at least from those of us who aren't expert sailors.

I don't think immersion is all Chandor and company were trying to achieve with the movie, though what the end means may vary by the viewer. I think there's a fairly pointed barb at the impersonality of large, global corporations set up from the very beginning; I also find myself fascinated by the actions taken in the last few scenes. In a way, the way the movie ends is as impressive a bit of structuring as the caption at the start - it transforms a movie that can often seem to be strictly about actions to one where ideas and character are just as important with unusual grace.

And if you just want to go, watch, and marvel at the way Chandor and Redford go about their business telling this story, do so. It's a thrilling adventure first and foremost, and that it can impress for other reasons is a substantial bonus.

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originally posted: 10/30/13 13:47:23
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2013 Cannes Film Festival For more in the 2013 Cannes Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2013 Zurich Film Festival For more in the 2013 Zurich Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2013 New York Film Festival For more in the 2013 New York Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2013 Telluride Film Festival For more in the 2013 Telluride Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2013 Vancouver International Film Festival For more in the 2013 Vancouver International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

5/14/20 Murundi Redford plays an incompetent sailor that does everything wrong you could imagine. 1 stars
3/03/14 Danielsan Really good movie- great Redford performance. Not nearly as popcorn as Castaway. 5 stars
2/25/14 Monday Morning You wanna be alone? You're alone…deal with it! Filmed entirely off the Santa Monica pier. 4 stars
12/03/13 mr.mike Great film and Redford's best ever performance. 5 stars
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  18-Oct-2013 (PG-13)
  DVD: 11-Feb-2014

  26-Dec-2013 (12A)

  DVD: 11-Feb-2014

Directed by
  J.C. Chandor

Written by
  J.C. Chandor

  Robert Redford

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