ALL IS LOST
Review by Michael Jacobson
Stars: Robert Redford
Director: J. C. Chandor
Audio: DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.4:1
Features: See Review
Length: 106 Minutes
Release Date: February 11, 2014
It has been the norm for the last 14 years of this website’s existence to begin a review with a pull quote from the movie we’re writing about. There’s not much chance of that with All is Lost, which is practically devoid of any spoken words. Only one actor ever appears on screen, and once the opening narration ends, that just about ends the dialogue.
The actor is Robert Redford, who delivers probably his greatest screen performance in the twilight of his career. Mr. Redford began as a popular movie star and leading man and eventually became one of Hollywood’s most respected directors as well as the founder of the Sundance Film Festival, designed to give young filmmakers better access to mainstream audiences. As a longtime fan, I wasn’t sure he’d ever have the urge to appear in FRONT of the camera again.
Lucky for all of us he did, and again, not enough praise can be spoken for his work in this movie. Not only is it the kind of movie that a man one-quarter of his age would find physically overwhelming, but it requires a very rare kind of artistry in acting; the ability to convey thought and emotion in a way that keeps the audience with him at every step WITHOUT relying on his words.
The movie begins with what sounds like his final narration (the character is not given a name). Then it circles back to eight years earlier when Our Man (as he is designated in the credits) is alone at sea in a sailboat somewhere in the vast expanse of the southern hemisphere. He is awoken by a stray floating shipping container that damages the side of his boat. We then follow his methodical method of repair.
This man is obviously no stranger to the sea…we don’t know why he is on this journey or how long he has been on it, but he is completely isolated and has to rely on himself when the first storm erupts.
The movie becomes a vivid story of survival…one man against nature. He begins to lose his ability to provide himself with food and water. The boat goes through more than any boat could endure, and begins to succumb. He is eventually left with nothing but an antique mariner’s instrument to try and find his position. If he is where he thinks he is, he will be crossing a busy commercial shipping lane…possibly his last chance to live.
The movie is suspenseful, to be sure, but so much more than that. It’s the chance to really give yourself over and succumb to a scenario playing out on screen. We are not just rooting for a hero to survive, but feeling his every moment, sharing his triumphs, mourning his losses, and fearing for his very life as though it were our own.
As mentioned, it takes an actor of very special caliber to allow audiences fully into his experience, and Robert Redford is just that person. I am not as old as he is, nor do I know the first thing about sailing, but I felt like I was thinking and planning along with him, working with him, and fearing along with him. That’s the kind of movie experience that is too few and far between. The fact that he was omitted from the Oscar nominations is just further proof in my book that the Academy has lost all relevance.
Director J. C. Chandor took a huge chance with an aging star and almost no words spoken, but he delivered a masterpiece, and one of the best movies of the decade.
This is an extraordinary looking effort from Lionsgate that runs the full gamut from the beautiful, clear skies and open seas to the dark, raging storms that make everything on screen seem in motion. Contrast and color levels are balanced beautifully throughout, and images are sharp and detailed.
For a film like this, with almost no dialogue and taking place in a part of nature that can be both calm and terrifying, audio is all-important. This soundtrack is a clinic in how to use effects to create ambience and enhance the mood…sometimes the most subtle cue is what alerts you that something terrible is on the horizon. This is a stunning mix that helps you to feel every moment.
There is a commentary track from J. C. Chandor, plus featurettes on the storm sequences, the sound of the movie, and making a “small” film look big, plus short vignettes on the story, Chandor, and Robert Redford
All is Lost is an unforgettable movie anchored by only one actor, and possibly the only actor who could have made it work to such an extraordinary level. You don’t get to experience something like this very often, so please don’t miss this chance.