All is Lost (2013)
Directed by J.C. Chandor
Starring: Robert Redford
Survival is something embedded into each and every one of us. It’s a characteristic we all have no matter how fit we are to actually surviving. We know what is dangerous and we know what is healthy. We know how to take care of ourselves and certain things that jeopardize our safety. It’s a common theme lately in the cinema landscape. Survival. In All is Lost, this is exactly what our unnamed characters is clinging onto.
Robert Redford at 77-years-old is our only character we see on screen. It’s incredible how you can see him and your mind flashes to the many great films he starred in, from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid to The Sting to The Natural. He’s almost done it all and after All is Lost, I’d say he practically has done it all now. It’s a marvelous career to gaze at and it’s fascinating that he’s the starring actor in such a demanding role like this one.
The events that happen to Redford’s character are unfortunate but not necessarily unlucky. He’s traveling on his sailboat alone in the Indian Ocean when he crashes into a stray cargo container, puncturing the side of his boat. Calm and collected, Redford patches up the damage and pumps the water out of his boat. His radio is broke. He’s practically stranded by himself and to make things worse, a storm drives through.
We don’t get any back-story of his character, nor do we have any idea why he’s sailing by himself, but none of that matters. What we see of him is that he’s very prepared and has a way to keep his cool when others would have panic attacks. This also contributes to the lack of spoken words in the movie. Aside from the opening voice-over, there are barely any words spoken. He doesn’t talk to himself. He doesn’t read out loud. He just keeps his thoughts to himself, which may be the biggest clue to why he’s sailing with no one.
What ends up happening to him is just a series of one bad thing after another, but he never flinches. While he might not be ready for every disaster, he’s smart and is able to work his way out of situations, like a bonafide boy scout. Everything that happens is a hit to his motivation to keep on surviving. As humans, we can only take so many blows until we just finally give up. Redford displays great persistence by keeping focus on the one thing that matters in his mind: staying alive.
J.C. Chandor (Margin Call) directed the film and used the lack of words to his advantage during this survival tale. As you can imagine, the sound during the movie plays a huge part. With every creek and every gust of wind, you get a sense of what Redford is going through. Then you watch as he squints his eyes through the crashing waves and the blinding rain and you wonder how he’s doing what he’s doing. It’s a miracle how many disasters Redford is able to out-last with such minimal materials at his presence. It’s also incredible how engaging this movie is without much plot and zero dialogue.
And the ending! I won’t go into details here but it’s a perfect ending that will leave you breathless. It’s quite a feat to really feel for a character that you know nothing about. Why are we rooting for him? Maybe it’s because it’s Robert Redford, which would make it a great casting choice. But other than that, why do we really care if he lives or not? It’s because we’re able to relate to his experience of clinging onto life during the lowest moments, and blow after blow, we all just try to hold onto something so we can live another day. Despite the outcome, as long as you gave it your absolute best, that’s when you know you’ve won.