Review: All Is Lost

As Our Man (Robert Redford) narrates the only monologue throughout a practically dialogue-free film, as the deck floods and the water begins to sink into the “Virginia Jean” in the opening scene, it becomes quite apparent that optimism is not in our best interest for All Is Lost.

J.C Chandor directs and writes, fresh off his Academy Award Nominated Original Screenplay debut Margin Call, a subtle and deeply metaphysical picture of one man’s survival story.

All Is Lost, a nearly dialogue free, thirty-two page treatment, tells the story of a man and his enduring will to survive the torrential Indian Ocean. When Our Man awakens to find a breach in his hull, no thanks to a floating red shipping container, he uses his keen nautical skills to detach the container from the “Virginia Jean”. Successful in his attempt to detach, Our Man steers his ship away, finally dislodged, and begins to patch his wounded boat. After successfully sealing the hull, ridding the boat of excess water and trying to readjust the boats navigational functions, Our Man is left with very little options. After a fatal storm for the “Virginia Jean” that forces Our Man to seek refuge on a lifeboat, All Is Lost showcases the talent of Redford as a veteran actor.

As the scenes build and the obstacles for Our Man continue, the film is an affecting cinematic venture that demands thought and patience. Effortless in his nuances and thoroughly convincing as a marine veteran, it’s almost daunting to actually remember Redford as a ranch-head.

All Is Lost

Set against the smooth and wavy backdrop of the Indian Ocean, Our Man, wrinkled, wise, bloody, and hopeful keeps us enthralled. At times, the film plays more as an informational boating tale with cautionary repercussions than a deeply affecting drama of hope, but Redford uses the film to seal his place amongst the greatest nuanced actors of his time.

The film itself is not for everyone. Somewhat uneventful and at a snail’s pace narratively, All Is Lost is Chandor‘s self-reflexive piece of arrogance and cockiness. Highlighting his skills as a writer and captain in front of the camera, the film itself is a bit nauseating due to the sweltering reminder of how good Chandor is. The film is filled with incredible, realistic scenes of pain and suffering, underwater scenery and marine wildlife, but the film is also a poorly constructed visual disaster. Poorly edited special effects of passing by boats and overwhelming wave FX, inadvertently reminds audience members how talented Redford actually is in the role and how much Chandor has to learn.

All Is Lost 2

Redford is pushed physically and mentally, literally being plunged into the blackened water, spun around and battered within the cabin of the boat, and peeled of all human interaction, the film is Redford‘s finest work as a seasoned film icon.

The production itself is a mixed bag of emotions. From an original score that includes a whale horn, excellent sound mixing and editing of the water and the always present mother-nature antagonist, to the extremely revealing intimate camera angles, there is much to be had with All Is Lost. 

Unfortunately for Redford and all involved, All Is Lost will mostly be an overlooked, or intentionally avoided film by many. Sure to make a splash with film enthusiasts and Redford die-hards, even then, the film will present audience members with a very hard decision, to sit through the whole movie or leave three-quarters in. There is no denying the intensity and power in Redford‘s portrayal of a literally and figuratively lost man. But, like his character in the film, All Is Lost may very well be drowned by obscurity.

All Is Lost is a thoroughly independent film driven by a  tour-de-force performance by Redford. After all is said and done, ambiguity is established and time has lapsed, one may come to the realization that All Is Lost is a rehashing of Cast Away, Open Water and last year’s Life of Pi, that may have come a little too soon, but narratively, not fast enough. I hope, for Redford‘s sake and for the sake of the sole actor steering this lost, directionless film, the film doesn’t become a hyperbole of itself. As Our Man ends his only few words, “all is lost here, except for soul and body”, Redford is present front and centre, but contrary to what the film claims, it’s soul still needs to be found.

Night Film Reviews: 6/10 Stars.

Is all lost for the film, or does Redford act as the film’s sole saving grace? Seen it yet? Or curious to see it? Leave your thoughts and comments below in the comment section. 


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