“All is Lost” (2013) is a film about a man (Robert Redford) alone on the Indian Ocean. Why is he here? Why is he alone? Where is he going, or does he even have a destination? These are all unknowns to us. He wakes one morning to discover that a cargo container floating adrift has struck his boat, The Virginia Jean, puncturing a hole. He doesn’t scream or lose control of the situation, because that is not the kind of man we are watching. He is a survivor. No matter what odds he seems to face, he rises to the challenge and does whatever is necessary, mostly without reservations or second thoughts. He is the only man on the boat, but he is not alone because we, the viewer, are with him. Alright so he doesn’t know we are there, but we are. We share the details of these eight fateful days with him. We share in his frustration, his pain, his hopelessness, and his fear. We are there with him, because he allows us to be.
The concept of a film with only one character is unique. There are no other characters here, it is a one man show. Undertaking an endeavor such as this takes courage because the margin for error is huge. Do people want to watch a film with only one character and almost no dialogue? Fortunately for “All is Lost”, it isn’t just a man we are watching, it is Robert Redford. He gives a tour-de-force performance, leaving nothing behind. His ability to captivate is inspiring. He can’t have a moment that is lacking because everything rests on his shoulders. He can’t let us down for even a second because the flow and rhythm would begin to dissipate immediately. What is most remarkable, however, is how he carries this film with his physicality. He winces and we feel the cold of the water or the sting of the hydrogen peroxide. He grunts as he tries to hold his boat together, pulling ropes and tying them off, and we feel the wind pulling against him or the power of the water attempting to destroy everything he has left. It’s Redford who makes us believe that this is happening, and he does it so well, that with the exception of a couple of poorly executed visual effects, we forget that we’re watching a movie, and experience a brief moment in one man’s crumbling life.
Writer/ director J.C. Chandor deserves praise, as well, for his innovative idea for a film, and for his near flawless ability to transfer his idea onto the screen. He and Redford combine to make a lethal filmmaking pair, both worthy of the accolades they are certain to receive. In fact, the entire film is deserving of acclaim and praise, as it is can serve as a blueprint of how films should be made. Frank G. DeMarco’s cinematography is subtle but exquisite, and the editing (Pete Beaudreau) is meticulously pieced together, avoiding high and lows, keeping the film running at a fluid pace. Also deserving of mention is the film’s melancholy and intoxicating score written by Alex Ebert. It evokes emotions that you wouldn’t expect, and leaves you searching for hope throughout a film that often seems to have little hope to spare.
Every year countless films are released, filled with action and effects, attempting to keep an audience from getting bored. “All is Lost” avoids the glitz and frills, and delivers a true human drama, in every sense of the words. In a career that has had countless brilliant performances, it is hard to say that this is Robert Redford’s best, but it certainly is the one time that he has doubtlessly proven his power and skill as an actor. He and this film bring new meaning to the words “human drama”, and the result is one that is not to be missed.