All Is Lost
DIRECTOR: JC Chandor
CAST: Robert Redford
RUNNING TIME: 108 minutes
RATING: 3 stars (out of 5)
THIS APTLY named disaster movie is a litany of all the worst things that could possibly happen to an individual alone at sea.
Barring a broken bone, that is. Luckily this is not 127 Hours and there’s no self-mutilation on the cards.
What there is, however, is hinted-at self-recrimination and a mea culpa in pretty much the only spoken words at the beginning of the film. Other than that, thankfully, no hacking of limbs.
Robert Redford is a sailor on a yacht which hits a floating cargo container, is forced to abandon said yacht after painstakingly patching it up but then having everything come apart on him because of a storm. It is unrelentingly grim as the writer/director JC Chandor (Margin Call) pours on the bad news, throwing everything and the kitchen sink at the unnamed sailor.
Cast adrift on his lifeboat, he does everything he is supposed to – learning to use his sextant after he has abandoned ship, lighting flares when he is passed by cargo liners and generally following the book – but it is to no avail.
All is lost for the unnamed man whom we never really get to know. Unlike in Gravity, you do not get to understand much about this character’s back story or motivation for being on the boat – he is clearly wealthy and well-educated, but that’s just a supposition on the part of the audience.
As character studies go, you are impressed by Redford’s physical ability to keep going and of course, he can’t help but bring along his screen baggage. But at no point do you ever begin to care what happens to this character. He shows determination, but no fear, lots of grit and pluck, but where is the anger and the panic and the growing sense of desperation?
This is minimalism of the highest order with great attention to the use of silence so it is a daring move on the director’s part.
But, if you know your sailing, then there are stupid goofs and faults, and if you are a keen observer then the continuity faults will grate, but the worst is not being able to emphathise with this character who handles every challenge with grace.
The problems just keep coming, he just keeps on solving them and we never get a sense of growth or change in the character because there is a sameness to the problems and solutions.
Yes, the film is both metaphor and allegory about life and struggling to survive, but so much of the character’s motivation and emotion is internalised that all the action of the disasters that strike him are simply movement to watch, not an emotional roller-coaster to empathise with and experience.
If you liked Hours, you will like this.