Pure Cinema that is excruciatingly suspenseful. All is Lost is the Robert Redford lost at sea film, the beginning first shot is of his sailing boat getting shredding by a metal cargo container in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Redford, at 77, has almost no dialogue. But the miraculousness of his performance is how we can read the decision-making on his face the whole way. It’s as much a tribute to Redford’s rugged, weary performance as it is to the cinematographer Frank DeMarco and writer-director J.C. Chandor whom focus on Redford and his life-and-death ordeal.
This is truly a visceral film that relies on natural elements, that tells its story solely on visuals without the intrusion of dialogue (this is the essence of Pure Cinema). I want to now bring up the unusual topic of Sound Design by Steve Boeddeker, which is outstanding. No film has ever captured the essence of rough seas and tumultuous weather like this film. You can hear every whisk of wind, or thrash of weather hitting the cabin. It’s maybe every two or three years that I bother mentioning Sound Design in a review.
As his yacht floods slowly, Redford finds solutions that surprisingly work. Glue and burlap fill up a hole, a device pumps out water, and Redford climbs the mast to fix a radio antennae – the fall could kill him like so many other things. What makes “All is Lost” such a gasping experience is how his patchwork disintegrates away in the face of extreme Mother Nature especially when the yacht helplessly sails into a storm. From that point on, after the boat holds up in mere shambles, food is in short supply and supplies are squandered, to live through anymore to me would be punishing. Redford has the will to survive, so he does and faces residual punishment.
Survival films are one of my favorite unofficial genres, but this one is near the top for its canny matter-of-fact shooting style, its cruel twists of fate, the cap of limited words spoken, the fury of a very realistic storm – the scenery, the sounds, and that storm is pedigree for big-screen cinema! There have been underrated Redford performances through his career (“Out of Africa,” “The Natural,” “Downhill Racer”) but this is his career capper, his finest performance. Only when the worse of the worse happens – and a lot of bad things happen to Redford’s unnamed character – do we see a subtle light into his soul. Watch “All is Lost,” you’ll be gripped.
SUSPENSE-THRILLER / MOTHER NATURE / LATE NIGHT CHILLS