"All is Lost" Review

All is Lost
Title: All is Lost
Director: J. C. Chandor
Starring: Robert Redford
Studio: Lionsgate
Genre(s): Drama
Rated: PG-13 (For brief strong language)

A man is lost at sea and struggles to survive. In that one sentence there I have just described the entire film. “All is Lost” is one of those rare movies that defies explanation. The film simply stars a man out at sea, trying to survive, and get home. That's all the film sets up and that's all we ever get. There is no backstory for how this man got lost at sea. Robert Redford is the one and only actor in this. The film has so little dialog I counted less than fifty words in the entire thing. It's maddening because the movie doesn't give me a lot to talk about on the surface. There's no way a movie like this exists. There's no way they could have found funding for it. Heck, I'm not even sure if Robert Redford is a big draw to the theaters anymore. Yet here the movie exists, and it even wound up in theaters to boot. This is one of the few times as a critic I'm almost for a loss of words.

Not because nothing happens in the film, but because there's so much stuff going on without a story really driving it forward. The only thing to really speak about is Redford's uncompromising performance, which is the main reason “All is Lost” works at all. Though he speaks very little and we don't know anything about him (not even a name), we nevertheless are interested in his journey because it's a very relatable one. Lots of people get stranded out at sea. Some for more unusual reasons than others. The thought of being lost at sea is enough to make people I know feel sick. What everyone in this situation has in common is the need to survive. Surviving is a challenge in and of itself though. The first bit of bad luck our man has is that a hole gets punched into his boat. While the hole gets patched up fairly easily enough water gets in to ruin his electronic communication devices.

The boat can still move though, so as long as he has that will to survive there is hope. What happens if he gets caught in a storm though? Well, he just has to try to survive it with what little resources he has. If I was stranded at sea there's a good chance this is how things would play out. Redford helps make this movie a real nail bitter though because of his powerful performance. As mentioned before there is almost no dialog in the film, but Redford more than makes up with that by being a dominant presence. Every plan he thinks of we can see the thinking process on his face. His body movements speak so much about whether he is hopeful or on the brink of despair. The movie doesn't throw an unrealistic amount of challenges for him to get out of, but the few he does find himself into are powerful enough that we can't help but wonder if he's going to make it out of this alive.

“All is Lost” was directed by J. C. Candor, who's last film was the critically acclaimed “Margin Call.” That movie had an all-star cast and compelling script that gave the audience a lot to take in and ponder. How strange is it then that his sophomore film steers away from the all-star casting and makes a movie where the script couldn't have been more than thirty pages long. Yet somehow “All is Lost” is the more compelling of his two films. It doesn't feel so much like a movie as it does an experience. An experience where we are with another human being in this terrible situation and we can feel every worry, fear, and pain he experiences. Redford has had a long career of standout performances and this may very well top that list. My only question is whether audiences will accept this film. In this day and age of endless noise and gadgets, will people be able to turn off their phones and go on an experience? Here's hoping.

Parents, there is one f-word in this. Recommended for ages 10 and up.