Running Time: 106 mins.
Release Date: February o8th, 2014
Director: J.C. Chandor
Writer: J.C. Chandor (Screenplay),
Starring: Robert Redford (Our Man)
All is Lost is the second feature from J.C. Chandor whose Oscar nominated debut, Margin Call (2011) was a star-studded, dialogue heavy Wall Street drama about the recent financial crisis. The two could not be more different…
“I’m sorry. I know this means little at this point, but I am. I tried. I think you would all agree that I tried. I am sorry. To be true, to be strong, to be kind, to love, to be right. But I wasn’t. All is lost here, except soul, and body. I fought till the end. I will miss you. I’m sorry.”
The film starts in the Indian Ocean where Our Man (Redford) is alone on a yacht 1,700 nautical miles from the Sumatra Straits. He awakes one morning to find water rushing into his cabin. Upon investigation he discovers that a cargo container has struck his boat and gouged a hole in the hull. Damage has also been done to his communication systems, which means that Our Man cannot contact anyone. He is alone and so he sets about repairing the damage under a clear sky and blazing sun but there is a storm on the horizon and he is racing to fix the damage to his ship and communications systems but new problems keep emerging…
The film can be summed up as Robert Redford trying to avert disaster at sea for over 90 minutes. It is more. It is about a man confronting death and his will to survive. It is a film which is visually beautiful and frightening and will make you think twice about sailing on the open seas alone.
Events play out like a horror title as one person, isolated from others, struggles to survive hostile conditions and a monster, in the form of an uncaring and relentless mother nature, batters the character. The whole thing is slightly tedious especially because Redford’s character barely expresses himself (not even swearing after disasters!) and he is alone throughout the film but we sympathise because of the strong physical performance Redford gives.
It’s all about the performance because the script is less about characterisation and more about incident, relying on the actor to carry the audience. The character is stripped of anything that we can identify him with. Try as you might, you never see any details that reveal his history and we never hear any dialogue about friends or family. He doesn’t even have a name, we only know him as “Our Man”. The only time we hear his voice in full flow is when he narrates his final message (above), and yet we still sympathise with him because of Redford’s performance.
Robert Redford is magnetic as the resourceful character that thinks things through and takes a direct hands-on approach to fixing situations. We understand that he is of a generation of males who rely on resourcefulness and grit instead of smart phones with access to Google. We see him battered and bruised, dragged through the sea, baked by a merciless sun and lashed by howling storms and yet he perseveres and continue to work hard. Watching this old-school Hollywood legend (77 at the time of filming) go through his ordeals with a taciturn, weathered but not withered face (he still retains his good-looks) is compelling. It is a very physical performance that demonstrates his character’s strength and desire to live, and a statement of how committed Redford is to the role.
The cinematography is magnificent. The camera insistently sticks on him or his POV as he rushes from one crisis to the next and he is continually pounded by storms and misfortune. Seeing the situation from his perspective is stirring as we see that no problem is insurmountable but as things proceed they get more dramatic and perilous and we are witness to the awful and sublime aspects of nature through the wider shots of the vast ocean and sky. Calm or stormy, the sight of endless blue grips your insides, takes your breath away, as you realise that sailing out on the high seas potentially involves losing all contact with others. Seeing it on a cinema screen is staggering stuff.
To be honest, I was quite surprised that I felt anything at the end because the film features a lot of slow moments when Redford is adrift and simply baking in the sun (to be blunt) but the film’s visual strengths and Redford’s performance mean that the proceedings takes on wider themes and isn’t just about seeing a man practice DIY at sea. Perhaps a religious or existential reading can be taken because life teems around Our Man as he suffers privations and is stripped of all mod-cons and means of saving himself. What’s left to him is hope. Whether it’s a tale of never losing faith in life or hanging on until chance and luck/hard work win out, one cannot deny that the ending is stirring stuff.