The Movie Waffler New Release Review - All is Lost | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - All is Lost

An elderly man is lost at sea when his boat is struck by a shipping container.

Directed by: JC Chandor
Starring: Robert Redford

An opening title card tells us we're 1700 nautical miles off the Sumatran Straits. An elderly man (Redford) narrates in voiceover a farewell letter that seems to address his family, expressing an unclarified regret. Eight days earlier the man is awoken in his yacht's cabin by water flooding through a gash in the hull. He discovers a shipping container collided with his boat while he slept, causing damage far greater than first thought. The yacht's power has been destroyed and the man's laptop, phone and radio are water damaged beyond repair, leaving him alone in a vast ocean where survival seems unlikely.
Writer/director JC Chandor made an impressive debut a couple years back with Margin Call, a film set in a New York investment firm during the early hours of the global financial crisis. His latest deals with the fallout of that ongoing crisis, albeit in an allegorical fashion. Otherwise it couldn't be more different. Margin Call was very much a "talkie", almost stage-like, while All is Lost is practically a silent. Apart from a few opening lines of narration, Redford's character utters a single word, a popular four letter Anglo-Saxon expletive roared in a moment of supreme frustration.
Redford's sailor finds himself, like many victims of the financial crisis, adrift and directionless, the taken-for-granted security of his home (his boat) disappearing rapidly. It's a crude metaphor but one Chandor never shoves down our throat. However, anyone who's found their world shrinking over the past few years will see something of their own financial predicament in Redford's physical one. We know from the opening voiceover that Redford has enough rations for eight days and we watch him scrimp and save, fighting a losing battle against a future as grim as it is uncertain. We feel his frustrations; here is an intelligent man undone by a stupid situation. 
Like the Coke bottle in The Gods Must Be Crazy, it's a symbol of western consumerism that turns the man's world upside down, a rogue shipping container filled with sneakers. I'm no expert on sailing or dealing with crises on the high seas but he seems to do everything correctly but finds himself thwarted by circumstances that aren't of his making.
Redford is riveting but Chandor rarely gives his performance room to breathe. Perhaps he presumes an impatient audience, one that won't settle for watching a great actor's face for more than a few seconds. If there's a director's cut that holds on Redford eating cold beans for five minutes, sign me up. That's why some people become movie stars; simply watching them exist on screen is enough. Cinema has more great actors now than ever before but when Redford's gone there won't be many movie stars left. While his like remain on our screens, however, all is not lost.

Eric Hillis