Sunday, October 27, 2013

Movie Review: "All is Lost"

In my favorite movie of all time, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, after a particularly disturbing trip on the "Wonkatania," spoiled Veruca Salt turns to her father and says, "Daddy, I do not want a boat like this."

After watching Robert Redford as a sailor battling the elements all alone in All is Lost, I can unequivocally say, I do not want a boat like this. Or any boat for that matter...

All is Lost opens with Redford's character (listed in the credits only as "Our Man") dictating a note of farewell to someone, remarking that "all is lost," and apologizing. It's a bit of a downer. The movie then flashes back eight days earlier, as he wakes up on his boat somewhere in the Indian Ocean to find it has run aground of a wayward shipping container and sustained some fairly major damage. Water rushes in at a brisk pace, and although clothing, supplies, and equipment are ruined, through some ingenuity (as well as some burlap and glue), he is able to repair the hole and move away from the container.

But that's just the start of his harrowing journey. Although quite an experienced sailor, he faces furies of nature which leave him shaking his head, gasping for breath, fighting for his life, and honestly, wondering what next. Suffice it to say, after battling some colossal storms and sustaining irreparable damage to his boat, he winds up having to abandon ship and seek refuge in a life raft. (And no, he isn't accompanied by a tiger named Richard Parker.)

This is a movie about one man's fight against nature, a fight for his own survival. Redford is the only character in the movie, and he barely speaks—in fact, probably some of the most powerful scenes in the movie are conveyed through facial expressions, gestures, and grimaces. At 77, Redford's face bears all of the crags of age and the wind-beaten ruddiness of an outdoor life. He even does many of his own stunts. And he is powerfully magnetic throughout, whether battling storms or as his courage begins to give way to despair.

The movie reminded me a bit of Gravity in that both films mainly rely on one actor's interactions with the world around them. And much like that film, All is Lost suffers a bit from "what else can go wrong" syndrome from time to time, as just when it appears that Redford's character has found a solution to a problem, his legs are kicked out from under him again. But I felt the former film had a little more heart, because you had the opportunity to get to know Sandra Bullock's character a bit, while Redford's character is kept at an emotional distance from the audience.

I'll admit I wasn't quite looking forward to this movie because I didn't know how nearly two hours of one man lost at sea could hold my interest. It did, although I struggled a bit. It's a tremendously bleak story, and if you aren't familiar with sailing (which I am not), you won't quite understand Redford's actions at the start of the movie. But ultimately, his performance is so powerful, you want to see how he'll handle the next challenge thrown at him. (And if you see this movie, please let me know so we can discuss your interpretation of the ending.)

Needless to say, I'm in no hurry to get on a boat anytime soon...


  1. Good review Larry. I highly doubt Redford won’t get nominated, but win? I sure do hope so because this is one hell of a performance unlike anything he’s ever done, or anything I’ve seen in quite some time from anybody.

  2. Thanks, Dan! I think, as I've understood it, the Oscar is currently a two-man race between Redford and Chiwetel Ejiofor for "12 Years a Slave." Given that Redford has never won an acting Oscar, and only been nominated once for acting at that, I'd say he's nearly a shoe-in...