Directed By: J.C. Chandor
Starring: Robert Redford
Tag line: "Never Give Up "
Trivia: This movie screened out of competition at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival
With a cast of one and very little dialogue, All is Lost, a 2013 action / drama written and directed by J.C. Chandor, is a singularly unique viewing experience.
While out at sea, a man (Robert Redford) is awakened one morning by the sound of a loud crash, after which his small boat starts filling up with water. Upon investigation, he finds his vessel struck a shipping container floating in the middle of the sea. The man eventually makes repairs, but is unable to save either his radio or navigation equipment, which were soaked as a result of the accident. As he’s dealing with the after-effects of this mishap, a violent storm comes rolling in, sending humongous waves crashing into the side of his ship. With his boat nearly destroyed, the man must take his chances aboard a life raft, hoping that a passing vessel might spot him. But as the days drag on, his will to survive slowly gives way to despair.
All is Lost is a very focused film, featuring a single character forced to deal with an escalating situation. We know nothing of where this man came from (there’s no backstory whatsoever) or where he’s going (for all we know, he planned to live the rest of his life at sea), and it’s to Redford’s credit that, despite this character being something of an enigma, he still manages to capture our attention, and manipulate our emotions, so completely. Aside from a brief narrated message at the start of the film (an explanation, as well as an apology, to a person or persons unknown), Redford isn’t given much dialogue to convey what he’s feeling. Instead, he does so with his face; every grimace, every long stare speaking to us loud and clear. We see his frustration when the radio refuses to work, and the gears turning in his mind as he relies on ancient seafaring equipment to determine his whereabouts. The movie’s most poignant moment occurs when our anonymous hero finally bids adieu to his beloved boat, pausing to take one last look around, and then occasionally glancing backwards as the life raft carries him away. From these quiet moments, we sense the love he felt for that ship, peppered with a hint of shame because he wasn’t able to save her.
In my write-up of Captain Phillips, I said how I thought this year’s Academy Awards should have featured six nominees for Best Actor instead of the usual five (allowing Tom Hanks, who gave one of the finest performances of his career in Captain Phillips, to be recognized without sacrificing any of the other nominees, who were equally as brilliant). Having now seen All is Lost, I’m thinking it should have been expanded to seven. For an actor of Redford’s stature to deliver a performance like this and not even be nominated is a damn pity.
If the films of 2013 taught us anything, it’s that, some years, five is not a magic number.