Humans in peril has been a big theme at the movies this year, and the most bare-bones and frustrating survival story comes in the form of All Is Lost. Featuring virtually no dialogue other than a few guttural swear words and a character that we know very little about, All Is Lost meanders through very familiar survival territory before reaching a conclusion that can either be taken literally or figuratively. You won’t care when decision time comes around.
The film stars Robert Redford, now seventy-seven but more than capable of carrying a movie. He plays “Our Man,” as credited, and all we know is that he owns a large yacht and is floating in the Indian Ocean. As the film opens he awakens to a bang and water entering the cabin of his boat. He has collided with an abandoned shipping container, and must take immediate action to repair his vessel. The radio equipment has been wiped out by the incoming water. Things will continue to get worse as he’s forced to contend with two storms, circling sharks, and dwindling resources.
That’s about it. There’s no back story (why is he out here alone? Who has he left back home?) and really no reason to care about Our Man other than the natural human emotion of not wanting to see others suffer and ultimately perish. He seems like a competent sailor and knows what to reference when needed, but the character is very dry and it seems incomprehensible that he would only have one frustrating breakdown and mutter only a few words during this ordeal.
The film is the sophomore effort from writer/director J.C. Chandor, whose previous effort was the excellent financial-crisis drama Margin Call. Here he chooses to strip the story down to virtually nothing, and the film suffers. Despite the storytelling issues, All Is Lost is beautiful to look at, with the underwater shots looking to be straight out of National Geographic. Robert Redford carries the movie admirably in what had to be a grueling shoot (Redford also does many of his own stunts). All Is Lost should have been a movie that has you thinking for days; instead it ends with a brief sigh of relief and a shrug.
Length: 106 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for brief strong language.
Theatrical Release: October 25, 2013 (Limited)
Directed by: J.C. Chandor
Written by: J.C. Chandor
Cast: Robert Redford