All is Lost (J. C. Chandor, 2013)
All is Lost follows ‘Our Man’ (Robert Redford) as he tries to survive while lost at sea. We do not know his name, we do not know why he was in the middle of the ocean on his lonesome in the first place. We are given no backstory whatsoever. But it works. I am surprised that someone out sailing by themselves would go below deck and have a nap – does that really happen? It seems somewhat foolish. Though I have heard that actual sailors were somewhat disappointed in Our Man’s lack of nautical knowledge as portrayed in the film. But if he had been an expert, it would have been a much less interesting film. I didn’t think he did a bad job, especially given that he’s a 77 year old! But then, HE’S ROBERT FRIGGIN’ REDFORD so he is somewhat superhuman. Redford more than holds his own in a film where he is indeed the only cast member. There is next to no dialogue in the film, which I thought could produce a snooze-fest, but Redford manages to convey the full gamut of emotions nevertheless.
I did find it strange that he didn’t talk to himself. We follow him for eight days and in that time he only lets out a single F-bomb, which was around the three day mark. I would have been dropping them repetitively and from the word Go. I personally speak to myself all the time (does that make me weird?), especially when I am in a panic trying to figure out what I should do. I assume there are just some people who don’t do that, although I have found I am not the only person that found his silence odd. Without dialogue it did sometimes take a minute to figure out what he was doing. But that gave it some sort of suspense and also made me feel somewhat confident in my ability to survive when I was able to figure stuff out semi-quickly (“Oh he’s going to send off a flare! They produce light! So people can see! I could totally survive if I were him! I’m a genius!”) I would definitely die in these circumstances. Although I would never go out to sea by myself. But if I was on a boat with a bunch of people and they all died, I would definitely die soon after. Even if I went on (reality television show) Survivor I would probably die. So suffice to say I admired his perseverance and survival skills!
J. C. Chandor who also directed and wrote Margin Call (2011), which on the flip side has smart dialogue aplenty, made some great directorial choices. He didn’t go for the obvious shocks, but rather kept it subtle, but not dull. There were a few great shots in particular. The sound editing/sound mixing (I’m still not 100% sure of the difference) was fantastic (and Oscar nominated in both categories) and I will certainly never complain about rain again… maybe. The storm scene was hella intense! Half way through it he decides to shave his face. Can’t say I got the point of that. I spent half of the film waiting for him to be attacked by sharks so I was in a constant state of fear despite there being few “AHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!” moments. I will keep a lid on whether the sharks do indeed come. The ending was a great one though some might disagree – I will also say no more on that matter. See it for yourself and decide.