All Is Lost
A sailor (Robert Redford) is alone on his sail boat in the Indian Ocean. He awakes from a nap to find water in his cabin. His boat has struck a shipping container that has fallen off a cargo ship. The impact has punched a hole in the hull and the incoming water has ruined all of his electronics for communication and navigation as well as the power systems of the boat. He is able to patch the hole and manually operate the bilge pump to pull out the water. His course is taking him into a strong storm that causes his boat to be capsized and righted twice. The second time snaps his mast, leaving him dead in the water. The falling mast has also poked another hole in the hull. This time there will be no repair and the sailor gets out the life raft and fills it with as much food and fresh water as he can. He gets off the boat just as it begins its final dive to the bottom of the sea. The sailor soon discovers his fresh water supply is tainted with sea water. He’s also running low on food and the two ships that have passed by didn’t see his flares. Things are getting desperate and it appears all is lost.
Robert Redford has been giving great performances for over half a century. He’s an Academy Award winner for his direction of “Ordinary People” in 1980 and has been nominated numerous other times. He’s an accomplished actor and director with nothing to prove and yet he took on the daunting task of being the only person in a movie that required numerous stunts and came with the risk of drowning. One cannot accuse Redford of being timid. Despite all this praise and the Oscar buzz surrounding the film, “All Is Lost” is a bit of a painful slog that isn’t terribly entertaining.
The audience is given no information about Redford’s character, including his name or why he’s sailing alone. It appears he has a family as the film starts with the sailor composing a letter that seems to be for his loved ones; but otherwise, we know nothing about this man. He must be intelligent as he seems to be able to find a solution to just about every problem he encounters. He must have money since he’s on a fairly nice looking sail boat and has the resources to stock it with provisions and equipment. This is all guess work based on what we see. The script, such as it is with only a few lines of dialog and the occasional curse word, never bothers to tell us what has led this man to this point in his life’s journey. Perhaps we would have felt some compassion for this person as he faces death alone on the sea. As it is, we may as well be on an elevator with a stranger as we have about the same connection as to the sailor.
My problems with the film boil down to I don’t think it’s very entertaining. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a good movie. The film is able to generate a great deal of tension as we await the next disaster to befall the sailor. The struggles he faces against the storm and when he is on the life raft make for occasionally riveting viewing. Redford’s weathered face, which gets progressively more weathered as the film goes on, is just as expressive as ever, able to convey hope, pain, anguish, annoyance and more far better than many other actors are able to with thousands of words. The camera work is often fascinating with views from below the water looking up at the life raft as a silhouette and inside the cabin of the sail boat giving us the claustrophobic view of being alone at sea. Most of the film finds the camera right in Redford’s face and that is not a bad place for it to be. I just wish there had been something more the audience could attach to other than just rooting for the sailor to survive. For all we know, he’s a horrible person who deserves every bad thing that happens to him.
“All Is Lost” is rated PG-13 for brief strong language. In frustration, the sailor yells out the F-word. We also see a large cut on the sailor’s forehead after he is thrown into a pole by a wave.
At 77-years old, Robert Redford is still a vibrant, active film maker, activist and philanthropist. No one can say he isn’t a great actor. I just didn’t think this film was terribly entertaining, even though it is at times riveting and tension-filled.
“All Is Lost” gets two guitars out of five.
It’s another week at the theatre with another big sequel and more new movies. I’ll see one based on your votes.
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