Film Review – All is Lost (2013)

All is Lost - post

Title – All is Lost (2013)

Director – J.C Chandor (Margin Call)

Cast – Robert Redford

Plot – When a shipping container breaches the hull of a yachtsman boat (Redford) it sets about a series of events that will test the body, the mind and the spirit within that holds the will to live.

“All is lost here… except for soul and body”

Review by Eddie on 9/03/2014

It takes a brave director and a brave actor to set forth on a journey where the film they are making is a near silent 100 minute plus feature that has a single actor command the screen from films opening until films close – All is Lost’s brave men are second time director JC Chandor (whose first film Margin Call is well worth seeking out) and seasoned Hollywood legend Robert Redford who inhabits his meatiest film role in decades and reminds us why at one stage he was Hollywood’s go to leading man.

Despite barely uttering a word Robert Redford is a commanding presence in this tale of survival, saying much with a mere facial expression or with a look of his eyes it’s fair to say that only an actor of his experience and expertise could of pulled of such a feat and it’s a great moment for him in the twilight of his career to again show us the viewers just why he is a legend of the industry. Redford’s commitment to the nameless role must have been a joy for director Chandor who is quickly establishing himself as a talent to watch. Margin Call was a film made around it’s cracking script and banter between actors and All is Lost is just about as far from that as possible. For only his second feature length film it’s a mighty feat by Chandor to control the film the way in which he does, whether or not on a calm sea or a raging storm the film never feels like it is slipping from Chandor’s grip despite the film having major limitations in it’s narrative scope.

For what it is All is Lost is virtually a faultless film but a movie in which we are asked to sit and partake in 100 minutes of a man on the sea it can only go so far. Moments of great emotion or potential to expand on who we are witnessing surviving are lost like our protagonist and it deters audience investment. Other elements of the film such as Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zero’s front man Alex Ebert’s Golden Globe winning score and the cinematography by Frank DeMarco and Peter Zuccarini feel as though they could have been expanded upon more also giving the film more scope and emotional feeling.

All is Lost may not be an easy film to enjoy, or even sit through thanks to it’s subject and plotting, but it’s a film that cannot be ignored thanks to a Redford showpiece and another fine step by Chandor in what is shaping to be an exciting career behind the camera. As a film about the will to survive and the strength of the human spirit, it’s one of the better examples of recent years.

3 and a half rouge shipping containers out of 5

42 responses to “Film Review – All is Lost (2013)

  1. Maybe it’s because I’ve done a little bit of sailing, but I was absolutely gripped all the way through All is Lost. It had no trouble keeping my attention. I didn’t want more emotion. In fact, one of the great things about the film was the way it dispensed with all the things that are normally regarded as essential: no other characters (hence no conflict between characters), no backstory, no dialogue (only monologue), and no character arc. All you get is one man trying to solve a series of problems in order to survive, which seems like a great metaphor for life: either you keep buggering on (as Churchill famously said) or you go under.

    • Very interesting David, I personally wanted to know the charts tear a little more as we were asked to invest the arduous journey with him we wanted to know who we were rooting for. A brave film none the less.

    • I was pretty surprised by the lack of Oscar love to Mark but I guess it was not political enough and a few people must of felt similar feelings to what I got from it.

  2. Nice review Eddie. I saw the film and agree with your remarks on the talents of J.C. Chandor and Robert Redford. The lack of luck of his character is unbelievable, yet at the end a glimpse of hope appears. This movie just shows us how dangerous common activities can sometimes be.

  3. Eddie, nice review. I think I’m one of the only people out there that thought it was overrated. Staring at Redford’s expressionless mug for 90 minutes did nothing for me. The shots under the raft, though, were great featuring the small to shark visitors.

  4. You’re right that this wasn’t an easy film to watch. I wanted to, and I thought it was a well-made film, but I just couldn’t deal with how long it went on.

  5. Solid review friend. I was having similar issues getting behind the character and truly rooting for him simply because I had NO idea who he was. I commend Chandor and Redford for the novelty of what the movie is trying to do, but for me (and I guess others) it didn’t quite pay off. All the same, an interesting approach that’s for sure.

  6. I loved this movie beyond love. All cinephiles need to see it. It’s a shame that it received virtually no promotion and kind of got lost in the shuffle. My only reservation is that I don’t think I will get anything out of it on a second viewing that I didn’t get out of it on the first, so I may never watch it again. But it’s the best performance of Redford’s career, and a brave, brave movie, impeccably made. When the star of a movie loses part of the hearing in one of his ears during filming, and says it was worth it, that tells you to sit up and pay attention. I’m curious—how do you interpret the ending? In my view *SPOILER ALERT*SPOILER ALERT*SPOILER ALERT* the ambiguity signals that it does not matter whether the character lives or dies, and I don’t think the filmmaker knows himself. What matters is that the character fought.

    • Spoiler Alert!

      I must admit to thinking that it leaves it up to you the viewer is it the hand of god welcoming him or is it the hand of his human rescue. It was quite beautiful that ending.

      • Spoiler (sort of)…

        Etherial is the word. Haunting. This is a film about hope vs. despair. We are all going to die someday, and the shadow of that day looms large, but until then we have to keep fighting, or else we are lost. That’s the end of my philosophizing for the night, but it’s true.

      • I wish more people had been gifted with the chance to look. The only person I know who saw this film other than me was the friend who was sitting next to me when I saw it. This film deserved an Oscar nomination, and instead hardly anyone has heard of it. Even for a small film with a niche audience, awareness has been slim to nil.
        Robert Redford has been in some fine movies, but all my life I was never as impressed with him as I felt like I was supposed to be. All Is Lost completley changed how I look at him as an actor. I’m going to have to go back now and revisit some of his classics.

  7. Nice review.

    I think my only problem with this film was the final 10 minutes or so *spoiler alert* There was a cut to black when he was in the raft which I thought would’ve been the perfect ending. Then it dragged things on just that little bit too long. I wasn’t too bothered though because Robert Redford was utterly enthralling and the film was genuinely (and surprisingly) thrilling!

    • It is a massive win for the film that it didn’t end up being a night unwatchable mess actually. Really shows that Chandor is a pretty fine director and obviously that Redford knows a thing or to about acting 🙂

  8. This was challenging for sure, for Redford as for the director. However, i think the real problem was in the script: no culmination, not so much passion, therefore no drama. This movie slowly fades away towards the end, with the story, and that is the biggest problem.

    If you read “The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket” by E. A. Poe, you will know what is needed for a good story on this subject.

  9. I’ve avoided the film for the same reason. As much good things that I hear about it and believe, I always seem to settle for films with….words instead. Eventually I will watch it, but I feel it will be hard to connect!

  10. My wife and I watched this last week and… yeah, it was amazing. You are spot on about both the director and actor being brave to do this. It was strange at first. I knew nothing about the movie beyond the basic plot, so I kept waiting for some dialog. Eventually though I settled into the meditation of the movie. The lack of dialog allowed me to think about the situation he was in and how I might react and experience it in a way that a movie with a lot of dialog doesn’t.

    The lack of strong emotional content didn’t both me, it intrigued me. I kept considering what might be going on for him outside of this boat-world that enabled such calmness.

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