Sunday, December 8, 2013

All is Lost

ALL IS LOST: Robert Redford, directed by J.C. Chandor (106 min.)

The only dialogue we get is in the prologue, a voiceover from Robert Redford.  He is apologizing to his family, for what exactly we aren't quite sure.  Aside from a radio SOS call and one loud yell of frustration, these words in the prologue are the only words spoken in All is Lost, a captivating, thrilling high-seas tale of will power and, ultimately, despair.  Redford is the star - the only character - in the film, known only as "Our Man" according to the imdb page.  We never learn anything of his past, his family, or why he is at sea to begin with.  We only know what is happening to Our Man as it happens on the screen.  All is Lost thrives on immediacy, and fascinates thanks to a performance from Redford I never saw coming.

Our Man wakes up from a nap to discover a wayward shipping container has punctured a hole in the side of his sailboat.  As water rushes in he doesn't panic, but methodically figures out a way free of the container and a way to stay afloat.  the bigger issue is that the rushing water has killed all the electricity in the boat so his navigation and engine components are useless.  He is adrift, and are we alongside him.  Various tasks keep him busy like trying to cobble together radio communication and repair the hole with resin and fiberglass sheeting.  He takes inventory of his food, pumps the water out of the cabin, and before long seems to be back on track.  That is when the weather appears and the situation deteriorates in some harrowing storm scenes.

I want to tread lightly here in regards to plot description because the events that unfold are paramount to the impact of the film.  Describing the direction of the story would be to spoil everything.  Situations arise and Our Man winds up in a life raft with fewer and fewer supplies.  Despite the fact we don't know anything about him, we learn important aspects of his character.  He is a resourceful man, a patient man who thinks calmly and carefully.  He makes very few mistakes, but even one mistake can be dire in such a desperate situation.  Even after an injury occurs he doesn't panic.  But every man has his breaking point, and we watch Our Man reach this point near the end of the second act.  I must say I would have crumbled days beforehand.

All is Lost is a gripping film that asks more of its star, Robert Redford, than most movies.  Tom Hanks in Cast Away springs to mind, but this is entirely different.  This picture is more intimate and remains closed in on our hero.  There is absolutely nothing more than Our Man lost at sea with his mind.  This is a performance certain to get Robert Redford an Oscar Nomination in a ridiculously stacked year of acting performances.  The internal struggle of his character is something I never expected from Redford, who exists more as an icon to me than one of history's finest actors.  But at 77 years old, the physicality of the role is just as impressive as the way Redford must act and react.  He doesn't have the advantage of conveying feelings to another character or in a communal setting; it is all Redford all the time, and his performance is a stunner.