Yes, being lost at sea sucks almost, if not, just as bad as being stuck out in space.
A man (Robert Redford) aboard his boat in the Indian Ocean, wakes up after a calm nap to find that he has been hit by something rather large hitting the side, causing an opening in the side, and ultimately, a disastrous flood that leaves him planning and deciphering in his mind what it is that he has to do in order to fix this problem, and do it without causing any further harm to his boat or himself. Eventually, the problem gets solved, but then comes a storm which leaves him more battered and bruised than ever before and it’s essentially his one-sided battle against nature, pulling out whatever stops he can to survive, draw attention to himself by fellow ships out at sea, and never lose sight of what’s worth fighting for in the end: The will to live.
After doing something so talky-talky, with a huge ensemble like Margin Call, it’s really intriguing to see writer/director J.C. Chandor make a movie as simple, as grounded, and as natural as this. See, what some may be confused about with this movie is that there is literally no back-story to this character (except for a narration overheard in the beginning that has more meaning as the flick goes on), no flashbacks, no volleyball for him to explain what he’s going to do next, or the type of situation they’re thrown into, and believe it or not, he doesn’t even have a name! What we see is what we get, and we aren’t really told anything which may leave some people in disappointment, but for us less demanding viewers who knows how much of a joy it is to not be talked-down to and shown everything we need to know about a person or the certain situation they’re thrown into, it’s a joy-and-a-half.
For starters, the fact that this movie features barely any actual talking from Redford really places you into the same mind-set that he seems to be the whole time. At points, you can tell that this man is lonely because he has nobody to really help him out, or hell, even talk to, and you can also tell that he so desperately wants to get out of this situation anyway that he can. He never tells us, but through Redford’s amazing performance (which I will get onto eventually), and Chandor’s no-frills direction that keeps everything style-free, straight, and to the point, you get a feel that you are right with this man, lost at sea, living every moment in hope that you’ll be saved and be brought back home to the life you once had. Whatever that life back at home may have been, it doesn’t matter; what does matter is that this man keeps the strength he needs to stay alive, try whatever he can to do so, never give up, and find help, by whomever.
And while I know that a lot people will be wondering where the big pay-off is in watching one guy try to survive at sea, it doesn’t matter. Because the big pay-off, like anything else that has to do with a big, loud, and booming theatrical presentation, isn’t in what we are told through the director or the screenplay, it’s what we are told through what we can see clearly in front of our eyes, where almost everything is open to interpretation. If you want a clear example of just what it is that I’m blabbering on about, look no further than the one scene where the man cut opens up a small, plastic tub used for clean water (which he clearly has none of), pours salt water into it, puts a plastic bag over it, tightens it so no air gets in or out, and leaves it in the hot sun. For a little while, it’s just sort of left there as the man goes about whatever he chooses to next, but moments later, he takes a cup, scoops up some of that water he was experimenting on, sips on it, and finds himself pleased with it. It’s a strange moment, one that I wondered if had any meaning whatsoever to the whole proceedings, but apparently it did, and once it showed its importance, I was really taken-by how surprised I was that I got what he was doing, without ever being told what it was that he was in fact doing.
I know this may sound stupid and repetitious of me, but the fact that this movie is so naturalistic in the way that it moves, tells its story, and let Robert Redford do his thing, really is something that needs to be seen. Not just for the performance, but the look of the movie is also spectacular in a way that could have only been shot on real waters, with real material. Although some uses of the green-screen do look a little shoddy at points, the movie still makes you feel like you’re stranded in the ocean, much like Gravity made you feel the same way in space. However, what that movie had to do to make you feel a certain way for over $100 million, seems almost comical against this movie’s lean and mean $8.5 million. Then again, I think you all know about my problems with that movie, so I’ll just let them go, but there is something to be said for a movie that can have the same effect on you, with less money and resources.
Okay, that’s it. I’m done, I promise. Just saying though, All Is Lost is better than Gravity. Just saying!
But remember earlier when I mentioned Robert Redford and his “amazing” performance in this movie? And remember how I alluded getting to it, describing it in full detail at a latter time? Well, now is that time. Buckle your seat-belts, peeps, because we got ourselves a future-Oscar nominated performance coming right at you, courtesy of a 40-year legend of the big screen: None other than Mr. Robert Redford himself.
Now, while it seems like almost any movie he does nowadays, Redford never seems to shy away from letting us all know what it is that he thinks in his head, at any given time, without any shortage of subtlety or slyness. He’s pretty up-front about his political opinions and has mainly dedicated his last couple of movies to them, and nothing else. Most of those movies don’t even have him acting in them, but when they do, he seems a bit rusty, as if all of his undeniable skills and charm as an actor went right out the wahzoo as soon as he started adding political-agendas to everything he did. He was probably the weakest link out of the whole cast in The Company You Keep (aka, the last movie he directed), and for awhile now, it seemed like the guy just gave up on the whole idea of actually acting in front of the camera, and set his sights more on the backside of the camera and what goes on behind it.
That is, until now. Now, it seems like Redford has finally been given not just the role that he’s deserved after an illustrious career of his, but the one that he could win an Oscar with, and happily retire after, knowing that he won the big one, all due to the performance-of-a-lifetime for a guy who totally deserved it. Since a lot of this performance has to do with Redford seemingly doing nothing else other than moving around and figuring things out, it’s extra special to be so commanded by a screen-presence, especially since he doesn’t really say much. The few lines that he does speak seem deserved and even something we can relate to as if we were thrown into the same position as he is. That’s why when you watch a 75-year-old man like Redford get his ass beaten, battered, and thrown all over the place in a movie like this, it’s a little disturbing because he’s an old fella, but it’s even more disturbing because he’s such an icon to the silver screen that you’d think he’s somewhat invincible to any powers that be.
However, this film proves otherwise and gives us a performance that Redford most likely may win his only acting-Oscar with. Everything he does here feels real, as if I never once questioned whether he knew a camera was thrown right in front of his face throughout the whole duration of the movie. You’re right there with him as he’s looking at things, figuring them out, wondering what it is that he can do next, and showing the will to survive, even if it’s only through a look in his eyes. Even then, we know that he’s a man that’s determined, smart, and will try whatever is in his will-power to stay alive and go back to the life he once knew. Like I said before, we don’t know much about him, but what we do know is enough: He’s a man, on a boat, stranded in the middle of the ocean, with nowhere to go, no one around him, and little to no resources. That much detail is enough to allow us to sympathize with him to the point of where his journey, is ours as well, and we care ever more now than ever. Well that, and the fact that he’s portrayed by The Sundance Kid. Now who wouldn’t want to be stuck on a journey of survival with that guy? Huh?!?!?
Consensus: Most likely going to be the most simple movie you’ll get this year, and yet, the power and emotion surrounding All Is Lost will surprise the heck out of you for many reasons, but the main which being that it gives us one of Robert Redford’s greatest performances ever, showing us that even at his age, the legend has still got it, even when he isn’t getting all hyped-up talking about politics.
8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!