All Is Lost | Movie+TV Reviews | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Seven Days needs your financial support!

All Is Lost 

Movie Review

Published November 20, 2013 at 1:12 p.m.

When it comes to man-versus-nature adventures, I’m pretty sure it’s a bad sign if every now and then you find yourself rooting for nature. It’s a sign something’s gone seriously wrong when the man is Robert Redford.

J.C. Chandor’s follow-up to Margin Call (2011) is a bold, experimental take on the tried-and-true lost-at-sea survival saga. On the one hand, it must be acknowledged that making a movie with only one character who has no name, no backstory and virtually no dialogue is admirably radical. On the other, there’s the undeniable fact that All Is Lost drifts into dullness. That’s the thing about bold experiments. They don’t always work.

The legendary actor gives a measured, magnetic performance as a 1 percenter (identified as “Our Man” in the credits) sailing solo across the Indian Ocean — why not? — in his 39-foot yacht. Thank God he’s played by Redford, because, I’ve got to tell you, I’ve always had limited patience with characters who get themselves into completely unnecessary life-and-death jams.

It drives me crazy — whether they’re scaling inhospitable heights, poking their noses into foreign political conflicts or doing any other damn fool thing there’s not a single sensible reason for doing when they could’ve stayed home with friends and shared a good movie or a bottle of wine. Into The Wild. 127 Hours. Shackleton. Scott of the Antarctic. Really? I can’t think of one good reason to go to the South Pole, much less to die trying. Can you?

But I digress. Redford’s character awakes one morning to find that a metal shipping container the size of a boxcar has collided with his craft, ripping a gash in its side just above the water line. In the process, his radio’s been rendered useless. In a related story, the handle to his bilge pump has gone missing, and the boat is taking on water. The first thing we learn about him is that he’s a cool customer. Rather than panic, he sets about checking off tasks on an increasingly urgent to-do list.

He mixes up a batch of fiberglass and patches the hull. He whittles a piece of wood to serve as the pump handle and cranks away. He rigs a system to harvest pitiful sips of drinking water from condensation on a piece of stretched plastic. He’s movie history’s most charismatic Eagle Scout.

For the first half hour or so, this can suck you in. Redford’s a treat to watch on screen again. He’s so good you can practically see him think. After a while, though, it can simply suck. A little. We’ve been here and done this before. A lot. Maybe not in the same minimalist style — but, between Castaway, Life of Pi, The Perfect Storm and The Old Man and the Sea (fun fact: Spencer Tracy was 57 when he made that; Redford’s 77), these are familiar waters.

We know there’ll be a corker of a storm. We know shipping lanes will come into play (will Captain Phillips notice Redford way down there from the bridge of his boat big as a floating city block)? We know sharks will circle. Toward the end, I would’ve bet money a friendly whale would sidle up to Redford’s liferaft and wake him with a refreshing spray.

Chandor’s film has human interest going for it. We don’t want someone — even someone as generic as this sun-seared, salt-crusted cipher — to lose the battle against the elements. What the film lacks is surprise. This shipwreck isn’t a train wreck by any means, but, in the case of the writer-director’s sophomore outing, less really is less. All Is Lost winds up nautical miles from all it might have been.

* Theaters and Showtimes

* Running time: 106 min.

* Rated: PG-13

Got something to say? Send a letter to the editor and we'll publish your feedback in print!

About The Author

Rick Kisonak

Rick Kisonak

Rick Kisonak is a film reviewer for Seven Days.


Showing 1-1 of 1


Comments are closed.

From 2014-2020, Seven Days allowed readers to comment on all stories posted on our website. While we've appreciated the suggestions and insights, right now Seven Days is prioritizing our core mission — producing high-quality, responsible local journalism — over moderating online debates between readers.

To criticize, correct or praise our reporting, please send us a letter to the editor or send us a tip. We’ll check it out and report the results.

Online comments may return when we have better tech tools for managing them. Thanks for reading.

Latest in Category

Keep up with us Seven Days a week!

Sign up for our fun and informative

All content © 2023 Da Capo Publishing, Inc. 255 So. Champlain St. Ste. 5, Burlington, VT 05401

Advertising Policy  |  Privacy Policy  |  Contact Us  |  About Us  |  Help
Website powered by Foundation