Synopsis: After a collision with a shipping container at sea, a resourceful sailor finds himself, despite all efforts to the contrary, staring his mortality in the face
It takes a special kind of charisma and screen presence for an actor or actress to hold a viewers concentration for ninety minutes in almost total silence and with no human interaction. It also takes a brave and ambitious director to choose a 78 year old actor to be that presence in a movie about being stranded at sea in ever more astonishingly bleak circumstances. J.C. Chandor (Margin Call) is evidently a film maker with some balls.
With the exception of a brief opening monologue which sets the lugubrious tone for All Is Lost, as an as yet unseen Redford reads aloud a letter to someone apologising for his past transgresions, seemingly comes to terms with his impending demise, the total words spoken throughout the movie either by Redford of heard on his radio makes Arnie’s Terminator sound like Joan Rivers. Spanning 90 minutes fewer films have created such tension with so little. It is a masterclass in understatement.
From the moment Redfords unnamed central character (credited as Our Man) is jolted from his slumber aboard his yacht somewhere in the Indian Ocean by the sound of a stray container ripping open his hull, what follows is the study of how solitude breeds clarity of thought under pressure. Never flapped and resourceful to a fault Our Man seeks to keep afloat his home against increasingly overwhelming odds. With nothing but vast, neverending horizons in every direction, afloat in the most remote place on Earth, every shift in wind, creak of the hull, clap of thunder or drop rain is like the sound of death tapping at his watery door. And in the absence of human conflict the elements become Redford’s foil, forever challenging him, asking him searching questions of his own mortality and striving to break his very being.
Redford was a beautiful casting choice as the nameless captain, with his still piercing blue eyes and shocks of blonde hair contrasting against the deep set wrinkles on his face. He is every bit the weather beaten sea farer and uses every ounce of his acting pedigree to portray his increasing despair without every really uttering a word. And when he does it is with the most gutteral emotion.
It is definitely a film that needs to be seen on a cinema screen if you can catch it on a re-release any time.
Conclusion: A contemporary silent movie and one that sets J.C.Chandor as one to watch for the future after this and the also brilliant Margin Call.
Cast: Robert Redford