all is lost

Director: J.C. Chandor.

Starring: Robert Redford.

Running Time: 106 minutes.

Certificate: 12A.

SynopsisAfter 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.

There is something magnetic about Robert Redford. Maybe it’s his old school Hollywood gravitas, maybe it’s his weathered, lived in face, but you just can’t stop watching him. It’s just as well because you won’t have much choice during ALL IS LOST as he’s the only person in the whole film. Mr Sundance plays our unnamed hero on a solo cruise who awakes one morning to find a big hole in his hull, flooded quarters and no navigation equipment. What follows is a titanic struggle between Man and Nature as he fights for his life against ever worsening conditions. At first, Redford looks like he’s not all that bothered about being lost at sea, but as his chances for survival dwindle, his emotions surface and we bear witness to one of the stand out performances of the year.

Director J.C. Chandor ramps up the tension exquisitely in what could have potentially been a spectacularly dull affair. Instead, the simple, almost primal terror of a person alone, lost and being pummelled by Mother Nature is palpable. This is due to Redford’s extraordinary performance which is rich in naturalism. There is no pantomime, undue gesticulation or histrionics. He reacts the way one would when alone, internalising his torment and altering his physicality as time wears on. The change in his appearance is subtle and alarmingly realistic and helps with the believability. You truly care for him and root for the poor sod as things get ever worse.

Chandor uses Redford’s environment to excellent effect, utilising the confines of the boat to emphasise his claustrophobia, wonderfully juxtaposed with the vastness of the sea. His yacht is practically a character in and of itself, which is testament to the direction and storytelling, as well as Redford’s relationship to it.

Any other year this would have gained much more attention, but as a tale of endurance and being alone in the wilderness, ALL IS LOST may have had its breakfast eaten by GRAVITY. Thematically, they are strikingly similar and it must be said, GRAVITY is a much better film. That’s not to say Chandor’s effort is anything but excellent, as it is quite a cinematic achievement; beautifully shot, extremely tense and ever so sad. But, like its space-set equivalent, it celebrates the never-say-die attitude of humanity. The desire to survive against insurmountable odds is something that we, as a species, like to define ourselves with, and it is brilliantly demonstrated here.

4 Stars Check out the rest of our LFF coverage here.