All is Lost Review
by Daniel Rester
All is Lost is a film that has Robert Redford, known in the credits as “Our Man,” lost at sea for a 106-minute running time. The dialogue is little, there are no other characters, and the storytelling is slight in this minimalist experiment from writer-director J.C. Chandor. Such filmmaking will test the patience of some moviegoers at times, but Redford and Chandor hold things together in a dazzling way for most of the run time.
Suraj Sharma had animals in Life of Pi (2012) and Tom Hanks a volleyball named Wilson in Cast Away (2000). In Lost, Redford has a sailboat named the Virginia Jean. However, he loses it not too long into the film. After some opening narration (a small passage of words that are the longest in the film) that has the man apologizing to an unknown person, we come to see a wayward shipping container puncture Redford’s boat. He stays calm at first and tries to fix it, but he eventually has to abandon ship and stick to a lifeboat.
With really no backstory to the unnamed character (he does have a wedding ring), it’s all up to Redford to keep us invested in this man’s journey. The journey is essentially about keeping hope during dangerous times and knowing when to accept death as a possibility; the apologetic nature of the character adds some nice flavor as well. Redford compliments these themes and Chandor’s capturing of them by giving a tremendous performance.
Redford has been entertaining audiences for over forty years with his movies. He has won an Oscar as director (for Ordinary People back in 1980) and picked up another, as an Honorary Award, back in 2002. Yet he has surprisingly only picked up one acting nomination in his entire career, which was back in 1973 for The Sting. That will change this year as he is guaranteed to pick up an Academy Award nomination (and may very well win) for Lost.
Lost is just proof of what a strong actor Redford still is. With just his eye movements and facial expressions, he gives true feeling to the character. The actor presents an entire range of emotions in often subtle ways, displaying all of the fear, frustration, determination, and sadness that could go into such an unexpected situation.
Chandor’s work behind the camera is excellent, too. He and cinematographers Frank G. DeMarco and Peter Zuccarini do a fine job at bringing out the beauty and scariness of the ocean. A lot of the framing, especially involving the underwater life and the boat flipping over, are very impressive.
Even better in Lost is the sound work. The noises provided by supervising sound editor Steve Boeddeker and his team, and the mixing by Gillian Arthur and Micah Bloomberg, are just great; all of the clear creaks and smashes on the boat and the roaring of the waves really add to the intensity of the story situations. The non-diegetic work is exceptional as well, with Alexander Ebert’s music score helping with the emotional weight of the man’s predicaments.
Lost is a slow watch that can wear one out, but it’s also a daring picture that skillfully displays the stripped-down material. It is worth seeing at least once for Redford and Chandor’s amazing work, but it doesn’t have too much re-watch value because of the lack of meat on its bones. However, the film is worth thinking about because of its “what would you do?” subject, and the ending will likely be argued over for weeks to come.
Rating: 3 out of 4 stars (Grade Equivalent for Me: B+)