All is Lost (2013) – J.C. Chandor

 

I’m a huge Robert Redford fan, and I love boats and ships so this one seemed like a sure match for me.

Played with almost no dialogue (what there is, is few and far between, and scant at that), Redford is the lone soul aboard the Virginia Jean. A competent and resourceful sailor he sees his skills and determination put to the test when a chance encounter with a cargo container damages his boat.

And that is just the beginnings if his troubles and things quickly become a fight for survival on the open ocean.

Taking on water, the sailor effects what repairs he can, but it seems the odds are being stacked against him as storms begun to roll in. Everything is played out in Redford’s actions and on his face, and it’s a great performance in my book. Watching resolution and resignation pass over him in equal measure as things keep happening.

There are some fantastic sequences, when the boat is rolled, I know how it was done, but even knowing doesn’t take away from the dramatic moment that plays out on the screen. That, and the way he plots his course, and hopes that he’ll pass through the shipping lanes, and what happens when he does.

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Alongside the fact that there is no real dialogue, there is also not a lot in the way of incidental music. This film is almost a stripped down experience, relying mostly on performances, and the sounds of the ocean and the storms, and the stillness following them.

This one won’t be for everyone, as I can think of a handful of people off the top of my head who wouldn’t enjoy this, because they need more in terms of dialogue, and perhaps even plot, which is the simplest of constructs in this film, and sometimes, simple is better. In this case, it really is.

Redford holds your attention for the entire running time, not another person is shown, there are hints about the character’s personal life from the knick knacks around the Virginia Jean, there are things you can read into. In a lesser actor’s hands, this one may not have worked at all, but with subtlety and honesty, Redford brings the role to life, and we follow him through his trials and tribulations, and can accept his emotional state for what it is, every step up the way, nothing but real.

I highly enjoyed this one, and ended up reacting just like Redford’s character did in a number of scenes, as things seem to keep piling up against him, as things you think are guaranteed to work fail, and that when everything… when All is Lost, then perhaps, there, is the beginning of hope and salvation.

I liked this one a lot.

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