Film Review: All Is Lost
All Is Lost (2013) is the threadbare story of a man trying to survive. Directed and written by J.C. Chandor, with the main (and only) role filled by Robert Redford, even before walking into the cinema I was in anticipation of this film. There was a buzz generated after the Golden Globes, where composer Alex Ebert (of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes fame) picked up Best Original Score, edging out Hans Zimmer for 12 Years a Slave and John Williams for The Book Thief.
Herded into the little cinema, devoid of patrons and advertisements (heck yeah), the film opened to the only spoken words in the film aside from a number of expletives blurted out during moments of despair. The film follows an unnamed older gentleman (Redford affectionately credited as ‘Our Man’ on IMDB) and his literal struggle to survive after his boat is hit by a shipping container in the Indian Ocean. After waking to a crunch, the near-silent protagonist discovers a stray shipping container has smashed through the hull at the waterline and is slowly but surely leaking into the hold. Obviously a competent sailor, he patches the hole to the best of his abilities, and discovers his broken radio while the inevitable storm comes rolling in.
Redford barely speaks in this role and still absolutely commands the attention of his audience merely through his presence on-screen. At 76 years of age, all which show as you watch him physically struggle through the elements while being beaten, frozen, and thrown around, Redford may have produced one of his best performances to date. I was on the edge of my seat, filled to the brim with nervous tension about what was going to happen next, wringing my hands with genuine worry while Redford gives a textbook lesson on the strength of non-verbal communication.
Going from strength to strength, Chandor’s barebones directing style lends itself exceptionally well to a film such as All Is Lost (but I suppose that makes sense cause he wrote it). This film is minimalistic in a number of ways. Mostly silent, the score knows when to be present as well as when to stay away and there isn’t particularly elaborate camera work, all things that help create an atmosphere of solitude and despair. There aren’t many close-ups of Redford’s face, something easy to fall back on when there is a sole subject, and yet there is still enough emotion portrayed to the viewer, a credit to Redford as much as Chandor. Chandor manages to make an incredibly dramatic and action filled movie of a single man lost at sea, something that I feel is a feat on its own. The Director of Underwater photography needs a pat on the back as the well crafted underwater shots, which could easily be mistaken as shots from the latest David Attenborough documentary, are beautiful and help break up some of the monotony of the sailor’s story, as well as definitely adding to the sense of urgency.
As the final credits rolled, I felt completely satisfied. The film concludes without falling into any clichés and the ending itself is equal parts dramatic and graceful. All Is Lost is a fantastic look into the despair of a hopeless situation and one mans journey through it.
- Sam Montgomery
All Is Lost is playing as a part of the Perth Internation Arts Festival and Lotterywest Festival Films at Somerville (UWA) from 3-8 Feb and Joondalup In The Pines 11-16 Feb at 8pm, click here for more information.