Craig's First Take: "All is Lost"

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After a collision with a shipping container at sea, a resourceful sailor finds himself, despite all efforts to the contrary, staring his mortality in the face.
3.5

Don’t expect much in the way of dialogue from “All is Lost”, J.C Chandor’s second film after the fantastic “Margin Call” (which had some terrific dialogue btw, and was probably one of the only explanations of the financial crisis I believe I was ever really able to follow). Reportedly the script for this was only 31 pages long, so also don’t expect much character development either. This is one of those movies that doesn’t fill in many blanks, but that doesn’t mean it’s disengaging. Far from it actually.

Robert Redford plays the one and only character in the film. There are no cutaways here to other people on land, this is one man’s quest for survival, his will to stay alive as long as he can, until all options have been exhausted. In the voice-over to begin the film, Chandor leaves no doubt that we’re headed in that direction. Redford’s boat has sprung a hole and taken on water, his efforts to pump the water out, seal the hole, and ration out his baked beans to stay fed take him only so far.

Doesn’t sound riveting yet but give it some time. Cinematographer Frank G. DeMarco should get huge credit here, his shots of the open water (both under it and above it) are gorgeous while others like a dizzying one where Redford looks down as he’s strapped in at high mast, or another where he pilots the boat amid heavy rain and wind, or yet another where Redford is knocked overboard and dragged by his own boat are greatly suspenseful.

This movie can basically be summarized with this sentence –Nature rocks and knocks Redford around for an hour and 45 minutes. But while there isn’t much of a character here, Redford embodies every boatman’s nightmare. He makes you feel the sunburn on his face, the dehydration, every ache and pain in his malnourished body, every physical and emotionally draining moment of it, we’re glued to the screen watching him. We can infer whatever we want about the character but it still doesn’t change the fact that Chandor’s film is most compelling as a tale of man vs. fate.

On the Younkin Scale: 7 out of 10