If you've been contemplating an around-the-world sailing jaunt (I haven't), then you may be well advised to check out what is essentially a one-man show, writer/director J.C. Chandor's All is Lost starring Robert Redford in a performance that is most mesmerizing because it's not emotionally manipulative or even, for the most part, that intellectually stimulating. Redford plays an unnamed sailor who encounters a rather serious crisis very early on in the film as his yacht encounters a most unusual accident that causes damage that seems, at least initially, to be overcome with more than a little ingenuity.
If you've seen the advertisements for All is Lost, then you've likely already found yourself comparing it to such films as Cast Away, 127 Hours or, on some level, to last year's Life of Pi or this year's Gravity.
The comparisons are truly unwarranted.
With the exception of a voiceover narrative in the early moments of the film, Redford is for the most part a silent presence with the exception of the occasional muttering or exclamation. He is alone, and while he overcomes his yacht's early challenge it becomes apparent that the challenges are going to increase drastically over time.
J.C. Chandor doesn't include a volleyball named Wilson or a tiger or any unnecessary plot exposition. That very fact, the absence of back story or details about this man's life, may actually contribute to your own feeling lost as you watch very matter-of-factly this man's predicament unfold with absolute uncertainty. The film's ending, quite ambiguous, is a tone of consistency in a film that proves once and for all that Chandor is a directorial force to be reckoned with in Hollywood after his under-appreciated debut, Margin Call.
Even without dialogue, Robert Redford's performance is quietly mesmerizing. It's sort of a polar opposite to Meryl Streep's over-the-top performance in August: Osage County - Redford's portrayal is one of quiet and steely calm with a matter-of-fact determination that doesn't really need to be spoken. Those familiar with Redford's career will likely marvel the most at his ability to become vulnerable and surrendered without every losing his strength or hope. There is a lengthy scene in the film involving a harrowing storm, a scene that will likely examining your own psyche' and wondering if you could keep your wits about you even as you were at the complete mercy of everything that surrounded you.
Redford's performance is an amazing performance precisely because he plays it internally rather than externally.
It haunts me still.
It's easy to imagine why Redford agreed to this role - It has such an indie sensibility to it that it's almost difficult to believe an actual studio, admittedly a more indie one like Lionsgate, actually agreed to release it in what has largely been an indie/arthouse nationwide deal. I'd almost imagine that it was just this type of film that Redford imagined when he dreamed up Sundance, a film festival dedicated to create such unique and bold cinema.
D.P. Frank G. DeMarco's lensing is so matter-of-fact that it's unnerving, while Peter Zuccarini's underwater lensing is both hypnotically beautiful and completely jarring. Alex Ebert's original score serves as a perfect companion for the film, but when it all comes down to it All is Lost truly finds itself in a tour de force performance from Robert Redford's almost sure to be Oscar-nominated performance.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic