All Is Lost is about life, death and surviving. It’s about getting old, moving on and overcoming life’s obstacles. It’s a powerful drama, with a great performance from Robert Redford. He’s credited only as ‘Our Man’, the nameless mariner who fights the elements and a multitude of challenges when his boat is hit by a stray cargo container on the Indian Ocean.
A movie like All Is Lost usually sets up who the main character is, what they have and what they risk losing. Writer/director J.C. Chandor doesn’t do that here. We know virtually nothing about the film’s protagonist, although we can ascertain that he’s relatively wealthy due to the fact that he’s sailing alone on a yacht. A film such as Castaway gives you a set-up, showing what the character has at home, then displaying the character’s salvation and return to the real world. It’s a Hollywood movie. All Is Lost may star one of our great all-time movie stars, but it doesn’t take the Hollywood route. It challenges its audience.
Our Man doesn’t have the trappings of the modern world, there’s no radio or computer or mobile phone as they were destroyed by the sea water following the initial collision. He’s simply forced to use his knowledge and wits to stay alive. It’s pretty much a commentary on how much we have let technology take over our lives, highlighting that we’ve lost our emotional honesty with nature – with the world.
Redford’s performance is mighty. It’s strong, realistic physical acting with his weathered face showing more detail and character exposition than a million lines of dialogue ever could. Is it Oscar Worthy? I’m not so sure. It’s more about reacting to the elements around him than acting. I don’t mean to sound like I’m belittling it (I’m not, far from it in fact), it’s just that the story doesn’t really let him go through a range of emotions. Having said all that – it is an honest performance – it’s how you would like to behave in such tragic and desperate circumstances.
Like the rest of the film, All Is Lost’s ending goes against convention; it doesn’t spoon-feed its audience but gives each viewer the ending they want, depending on their view of Our Man’s journey. All Is Lost never takes the easy way out. It’s a film that doesn’t care about box office, sequels or fast food tie-ins. This is cinema in its purest form, taking things back to the silent age.
All Is Lost is a film for those who love cinema and who love life. It’s about man’s struggle against the world and society. The problems that we face as we get older, highlighting that there is never a satisfying or easy answer, that happy endings aren’t always guaranteed – no matter who you are. All Is Lost is a brave movie, a noble movie and to put it simply – it’s a movie that you need to see.