Robert Redford is a hell of an actor. His career spans decades and he’s appeared in some of the most memorable film roles in history. If you wanted to make a movie about a man alone at sea in a sinking boat you could certainly do worse than to cast him. So that’s what JC Chandor did in All Is Lost. Good thing too because it turns out that All Is Lost is probably going to go down as one of those most memorable roles I mentioned.
So here’s the premise. Robert Redford is sailing on the Indian Ocean when his boat strikes a cargo container. The boat is badly damaged and begins to sink. This is pretty much the entirety of the story. The hook is that, as Redford is alone on the boat, there are only 4 scenes which feature any dialogue at all. Five if you count an opening monologue.
Yes, you read that right, we watch Robert Redford beoing lost at sea for nearly 2 hours and he basically doesn’t talk the whole time. It’s kind of amazing, too. Literally nearly every emotion that our man is feeling, every reaction, every moment of joy or despair, everything is communicated to the audience non-verbally.
It’s a real tour de force performance from Redford. It would be easy to go way over the top in a role like this but everything he does it wonderfully understated. From the smirk when he’s managed to patch up his boat to the look of despair when he notices an oncoming storm, you’ve never in doubt about what he’s feeling or why our man is fighting to survive. As the story moves forward and our man starts to wear down you can read it in not only his face but all of his body language.
This is only JC Chandor’s second movie but so far he’s batting 1.000. You could argue that All Is Lost has a few superfluous shots however every shot is wonderfully composed and plays back into our man’s situation. The tone is consistent in it’s “holy shit what’s next” and the pacing is just about perfect as we watch our man’s luck go from bad to worse, from worse to “damn”, and from “damn” to “you gotta be fucking kidding me”.
I’ve never seen anything quite like All Is Lost and that alone would be reason enough to recommend seeing it. good thing then that it also turns out to be a well made, compelling story featuring a stellar performance from one of the great actors of our time.