Friday, November 1, 2013

Review: All Is Lost

Robert Redford is a cinematic legend, an Academy Award winning actor, and an ambassador for independent film (the creator of the Sundance Film Festival).  In a long, storied career he has saved his best performance for the 77th year of his life as he runs the entire show from start to finish in J.C. Chandor's All Is Lost, a strange minimalist story of nautical survival.

Chandor, who directs his second feature film following the well-received 2012 financial crisis movie Margin Call, makes the executive decision to cast Redford as the sole actor in All Is Lost.  We meet Redford's character (listed in the credits as "Our Man") at the very start of the film as we see him writing a goodbye letter to his friends and family.  Flash forward 8 days earlier and we are instantly shown the initial impact with Redford's sailboat and a wary cargo container floating in the Indian Ocean.

The entire span of the next hour and a half of film chronicles Redford's efforts to patch his boat and survive without the guide of a radio or navigation system.  With only a few words spoken on-screen, Redford is left with a muted performance in which he must emote how he feels as the days dwindle onward.  Chandor does a great job with his camera work, putting us right there with Redford on the boat as we feel the wrath of nature that is let loose on his character.  The movie ends with an ambiguous situation that would seem more important if we know a little more about "Our Man".  However, Chandor is determined to give no back story for the character and therefore leaves the audience to come up with their own interpretation of how the plot ends up for Redford.  I applaud Chandor in thinking outside the box with this one, but I'm not sure if he's produced an actual movie as much as an experiment.  The much better isolation movie of the year is Gravity.

Overall, All Is Lot is a film that is gripping and grounded in reality with an amazing performance from Redford that should make him a real contender for the Best Actor trophy next year.  I just don't see myself ever seeing it again.  it's a one-trick-pony from start to finish, with minimal dialogue.  Redford keeps you interested though and that in of itself is an achievement.  I would recommend seeing this, but maybe waiting for video is a good idea (although the theater sound adds to the overall effect).  A solid-but-strange 3.5 out of 5 JRs for this movie.