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All Is Lost
Genre Drama
 
Review:

All Is Lost arrives in a year dominated by thrilling survival dramas, Captain Phillips and Gravity. While it hasn't made the same splash as its contemporaries, it's a film that deserves your full attention. You could describe it as Life of Pi without the tiger, Castaway without the island or Gravity at sea... however you relay the basics, one thing holds fast, J.C. Chandor's minimalist action-adventure survival drama is a true original.

The up-and-coming director demonstrated his script-writing ability and directorial strengths with a full ensemble of top brass talent in the financial crisis thriller, Margin Call. The critically acclaimed drama showcased Chandor, giving him license to try something entirely different with his next film. All Is Lost is a complete reversal, stripping down the cast, the characters and the plot to essentially focus on one man's efforts to stay alive at sea.

While much more intimate, it would be a mistake to think that All Is Lost is a small film. While the budget, cast and crew have shrunk, the heaven's are the limit for the film's ambitions and themes, pitting a man against the elements. All Is Lost echoes aspects from the Biblical story of Job as wave after wave of misfortune seem to test the mettle of his character.

"Our Man", as Robert Redford is credited, is anonymous. We're never given much information on his past or the source of wealth that allows him to sail solo around the world on a yacht. Hollywood veteran, Robert Redford, is given the challenging task of keeping the film afloat as its only actor. Similarly, Tom Hanks managed to hold our attention in Castaway, yet with a 32 page script, Chandor's film is free of dialogue and Redford doesn't have a volleyball named Wilson.

From bucketing water to resourceful seamanship, we journey with Redford, whose optimistic and knowing performance soaks up the silence with true grit and bald-faced determination. He's able to transpose so much life into the role, giving us glimpses into the sailor's soul as the sea (or life) beats him down. While the performance resonates emotionally, it also works practically. Redford performs many stunts himself and at the age of 77, we believe he can man a yacht alone.

The cinematography is incredible, taking us into the claustrophobic confines of the yacht cabin, tossing us around in the eye of the storm only to zoom out to portray our man's sometimes serene natural surroundings. It has a documentary realism to it, yet captures the devastating beauty and indiscriminate danger of his predicament.

While we adventure with the sailor visually, All Is Lost is an aural expedition in itself. The sound effects are crisp and we feel every reverberation of every action and prop, while the yacht's presence and authenticity is unquestionably real. The integrity of the ocean's sounds are embedded in a haunting score that bellows and beckons with a spiritual sway.

All Is Lost is not for everyone. The anonymity of the lead, the lack of dialogue and dismal order of events make the film's rewards difficult to uncover. However, it's a breath of fresh air to those wanting to watch a film of rare substance and meditative thought. We're encouraged to witness this survival adventure first-hand and without prejudice. It may not be entirely accurate from a seaman's perspective, but you're missing the point if this becomes a hang up.

Watching it from this standpoint, allows you to truly experience the fullness of this character's troubles from a safe distance. Our emotional investment becomes more and more evident as we start to realise just how much we've been rooting for him all along. J.C. Chandor has crafted a powerful and taut deep sea adventure drama that sinks into your bones. Robert Redford's performance is resolute, spirited and honest, and the strong production values bring this vision to life.

The bottom line: Engrossing


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