A harrowing survival story, "All Is Lost" is simply a senior citizen vs. the sea. This unnamed man (Robert Redford), on a solo voyage in the Indian Ocean, awakes one morning to find water pouring into his 39-foot yacht. A shipping container, floating adrift, has collided with his vessel.
Thus, his battle against the punctured hull begins, but that's not all. Without electricity, he doesn't have a working radio nor navigation equipment, and sails right into a storm. His situation gets more dire as the film progresses, but it is his resourcefulness and ingenuity that keeps him going, as he hopes to hail a passing vessel. But supplies dwindle, the sun is brutal, and sharks circle.
Perhaps no one other than Robert Redford could carry this film. At 77, he can no longer be the golden boy that he was in his '70s and '80s prime. He has the weather-beaten face of a man who has lived an outdoorsy, well-lived life, but his intellect and strength remain remarkable, displayed here in abundance. Behind those blue eyes, we have always known there is a whip-smart superstar.
What he has contributed to film, in founding the Sundance Institute and film festival, championing the independent cinema movement, has furthered his legacy as film roles became fewer. Creating iconic characters in such memorable films as "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," "The Natural" and "All the President's Men," he could rest on his laurels, or attempt this challenging role as a sort of last hurrah.
I don't think it's enough to earn him his second Oscar nomination for acting (only one was for "The Sting" -- he has one for directing "Ordinary People"), because while gripping at times, the movie's just too slight.
A testament to resiliency and determination in the wake of daunting odds, "All Is Lost" keeps you hopeful -- you root for this guy. J.C. Chandor ("Margin Call") wrote and directed with a specific singular vision, and if you don't buy into it, you will lose interest quickly. An effective musical score is by Alex Ebert of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros compliments the sound of waves and the boat rocking.
What Doesn't Work
With no backstory and little dialogue, it can be frustrating to watch. We know nothing about this man, why he's at sea alone, and what led him to that juncture in his life.
Starring: Robert Redford
Director: J.C. Chandor