MRR Review: "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.
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MRR Review: "All Is Lost"

Rating: PG-13 (Brief strong language)
Length: 106 minutes
Release Date: October 18, 2013
Directed By: J.C. Chandor
Genre: Action/Adventure/Drama

Unique movies were abundant in 2013, and "All Is Lost" may be one of the most unusual films of the year. "All Is Lost" is a thrilling American survival film directed and written by J.C. Chandor, who is already well-known for "Margin Call," a 2011 independent drama that was described as the best Wall Street movie ever made and was nominated for an Academy Award. Drawing on his previous experience with creating a compelling independent film that appeals to audiences of Hollywood blockbusters, Chandor put in an incredible amount of effort when he set out to make "All Is Lost" a reality. The idea for "All Is Lost" came to Chandor during his long commute to New York from Rhode Island, and he could hardly wait to get started on it. With the idea fresh in his mind, Chandor met with veteran actor Robert Redford at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, where he asked the actor to star in the movie as the only human cast member. Redford agreed, and the casting was solidified in early 2012. Filming began shortly after and progressed rapidly. Since Redford is the only actor in the entire movie, the shooting script was incredibly short and had only a handful of spoken lines.

Chandor's idea for "All Is Lost" is a fairly unusual take on the traditional survival movie. Most movies revolve around groups of people, usually friends or coworkers, using teamwork to survive. Most of the time, these movies are more about the relationships between the survivors than they are about the struggle to stay alive. However, "All Is Lost" is about one man against the unpredictable forces of nature. The ocean is the most formidable place on the planet—deadly animals circle the waters in search of prey, and storms bring deadly waves that can break apart any man-made vessel. A ship that's been lost at sea will almost never make it back to shore in one piece; but that's exactly what Redford's character must do to stay alive.

"All Is Lost" begins when an unnamed man wakes to water leaking into his yacht after the hull of his boat slams into a floating shipping container left behind by a ship that passed by long ago. He's on a solo voyage on the high seas of the Indian Ocean, and he's miles away from anyone who can help. Using the few tools he's able to access, the man rides the currents in hopes that they will eventually carry him to one of the many paths used by cargo ships, so he can get back to shore. Unable to access his radio or his navigation equipment, the man accidentally heads directly into a dangerous storm. In spite of his resourcefulness, he soon finds himself face-to-face with his mortality and realizes he might not make it out of the sea alive.

The phenomenal soundtrack for "All Is Lost" was composed by Alex Ebert, the frontman of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, who was chosen to create the soundtrack towards the end of 2012. Ebert wrote a beautiful soundtrack featuring one new song and ten highly original instrumental compositions that capture the beauty and drama of nature's most powerful force and man's struggle to survive in the face of almost certain death. The score more than makes up for the lack of spoken words, providing insight into the mind of Redford's character as he utilizes every ability and resource he has in a nearly impossible attempt to make it back to shore with his life.

"All Is Lost" is a compelling film that brings new life to the survival movie genre in spite of its unusual focus on the quest for survival as opposed to the relationships between the survivors. Even though he is the only cast member in the entire film, Redford carries the movie and gives one of his best performances yet. There are few movies that can pull off a one-man act, but "All Is Lost" has set the bar even higher thanks to Chandor's fantastic story, the dramatic soundtrack by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, and Redford's astounding talent as a veteran actor. Thanks to this winning formula, it's no wonder critics and moviegoers alike have praised "All Is Lost" as one of the best films of 2013.

Rating: 4 out of 5