'All is Lost' review: Powerful, harrowing tale of a man and the sea
A film of few spoken words and only one character crafts one of the strongest films of this year.
In short: A lone sailor (Robert Redford) fights to survive the unforgiving sea when his yacht crashes into a shipping container in the middle of the Indian Ocean. (watch the trailer)
Everyone should not upfront: there's almost no dialogue in 'All is Lost.' The trailer features a large portion of this film's scripted dialogue. The only spoken lines consist of a voice-over monologue at film's outset, a brief radio conversation and the occasional grunt in frustration.
Without the crutch of painful exposition, inner monologue or forced 'isolated man talking to himself' dialogue, 'All is Lost' is forced into perfectly executing the fundamentals of storytelling. This harrowing survival story stands above most other films thanks largely to a brilliant performance from Redford, incredible film-making from its director and a well-crafted, focused script.
Redford's performance is arguably perfect. He absolutely holds the screen with the subtlest of reactions and commanding presence. His character has no name, history or background - yet Redford exactly conveys the core of the sailor's character.
This is a resourceful man who earnestly works with grim determination, even in the face of ever-worsening conditions at sea. Redford's nuanced performance avoids relying on huge, cartoony gesticulations to reveal his moods or reactions. Instead, Redford teaches a master class in acting - his small, subtle moves brilliantly reveal the man's honest reactions to a desperate situation.
One of the film's most effective scenes is a simple one: the man casually shaving as his crippled yacht slowly drifts toward a terrible storm. He has every reason to wildly freak-out during this calm before the storm, but the man takes the time to shave - for what could be the last time for a very long time. Or ever.
If Redford gets the lion's share of credit for executing this intense tale, then its writer-director deserves a great deal of acclaim too.
Filmmaker J.C. Chandor has crafted a finely tuned 'man versus nature' battle for survival. This film begins the second the yacht is impacted and this story ends exactly the moment it should. Every frame of this masterpiece either establishes character, presents a crisis or reveals an escalating situation. 'All is Lost' has exactly zero fat to trim - this is a wonderfully told tale of a lone man's relentless battle to survive the unforgiving ocean.
Redford's most entertaining turn in decades is the performance of a lifetime that absolutely demands consideration in the Best Actor category.
Final verdict: 'All is Lost' is a full realization of the visual medium that is cinema. His quiet, precisely-crafted performance is given room to breath in this dialogue-light drama.