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All is Lost (2013)

September 07, 2014
All is Lost movie review
Photo Credit: All is Lost / Lionsgate
Robert Redford on a sinking boat for two hours. 3 out of 4 stars. Initially, this blurb was going to be my review for All is Lost. The more I thought about the movie, both my adoration and affliction towards it, the more I realized I needed to say more.

Hundreds of miles off-shore in the Indian Ocean after a shipping container strikes the side of his boat, an unnamed man (Robert Redford) tries to withstand its sinking long enough to be rescued or reach shore. From the get-go when we know all is lost, our attention is easily consumed with how this lone sailor is left stranded and attempting to not be gobbled up by all the elements we could ever imagine.

In a wave of movies that are currently trending limited character challenging the odds against them, writer and director J.C. Chandor's sea-centered drama stands out. It's a movie that is nothing but story; essentially an experience of rooting for an elderly, barely physically capable man attempting to persevere against mother nature. No score. No supporting characters. Less than a hundred (maybe even twenty-five) spoken words. It's ninety minutes of Robert Redford on a boat.

Critics lauded the movie for Redford's ability to captivate audiences in a movie where he is the only character and presence on-screen. For a Classic Hollywood legend of his talent as well as his good looks, everything about this performance in fifty-plus year career is primarily physical. We want him to move faster than he can. He makes dangerous bold moves to last just for another hour or so. We have no information to go on about Redford's character, except essentially that we are compelled to get behind his victory.

Dramatic, full of heavy-handed analysis of one man's survival, and a nature-centered environment, I really should have loved All is Lost considering my tastes in similar movies like Gravity (Sandra Bullock floating in space for ninety minutes),127 Hours (James Franco is attached between a rock and a canyon for three days), and The Tree of Life (a storyless three hour nature/universe/birth/death documentary). Yet, I felt more compelled to be frustrated by it as much as I liked it.

Often my attention fell to the wayside. I entertained myself with quips of adjoining other sea-related movies into the storyline to keep my interest afloat (Titanic, The Little Mermaid, Captain Phillips, Cast-Away - to name a few). As much as I was in awe with the technical quality of the film, perhaps an experience that showcased one of Redford's very best performances, I felt I had seen the main character's ominous strife before: a cinematic jigsaw puzzle of will he or won't he make it that leads to a grey conclusion meant to leave the viewers questioning its meaning. Redford is someone to root for. The story is driven by action and conflict. And, yet I had inwardly prayed at some point The Lonely Island would ride up on a yacht and break out into song. As much as we may want Redford to endure, the hope against all hope established at the beginning of the movie actually made its ambitious symbolic conclusion unfulfilled and anti-climatic.

As much as the movie does for showcasing a film industry legend's ability to bring out one of his very best performances - a physical feat rather than so many Oscar-nominated performances that are applauded for emotionality - All is Lost is literally Robert Redford on a boat for two hours. Your move.
Rating: ★★☆
Have you seen All Is Lost? What are your thoughts?

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