Friday, November 08, 2013
Now playing at an indie art house near you:
ALL IS LOST (Dir. J.C. Chandor, 2013)
After his last few preachy pleas for relevancy (LIONS FOR LAMBS and THE COMPANY YOU KEEP, which he both produced and directed), Robert Redford has redeemed himself with his role as a man stranded at sea in ALL IS LOST, J.C. Chandor’s follow-up to his directorial debut MARGIN CALL.
Set, as titles tell us, “170 nautical miles from the Sumatra straits” over eight days, the film starts with Redford being awakened on his yacht by water gushing into his cabin. While he was sleeping, his boat had hit a large stray shipping container floating in the Indian Ocean.
Things don't look that bleak at first, as Redford patches up the hole, and bails out the water, but a violent storm that's soon approaching ensures that his boat is in big danger.
Apart from an opening monologue via voice-over concerning last regrets and apologies, we barely hear Redford speak, and we don't get any back story about his character or get any idea where he's going or why. All we can deduce is that he's a smart resourceful guy, who's wealthy enough to own an expensive yacht.
But despite still having a lot of fight left in him, the 77-year old can't seem to get a break as whenever he thinks he's found some breathing space, a few moments of safety, another life threatening predicament rears its head.
It's a very sad scene indeed when his boat completely sinks and our protagonist, who's only credited as “Our Man,” moves to an inflatable raft, with only a few cans of food, some potable water, and several flares to get him by.
Redford is able to head his raft to the shipping lanes, but he finds that it's extremely difficult to get seen by the large passing cargo ships, even when firing off flares.
Desperate, defeated, sun burned, broken down, and surrounded by sharks, Redford doesn't just drop an f-bomb at one of his lowest moments; he launches it into the heavens, cursing all creation for what looks like will be his ultimate doom.
ALL IS LOST feels longer than its 106 minute running time, but I mean that in a good way, as it's a riveting journey that never drags as it takes us intensely step-by-step through Redford's worsening situation, and wrings every bit of emotion possible out of it.
The ocean here, starkly shot by cinematographers Frank G. De Marco and Peter Zuccarini, is as vast and scary as outer space is in GRAVITY, another 2013 tale of survival under extreme circumstances that shares similar levels of stressful scariness.
In this spare yet engrossing as Hell story, Redford gets off of his Sundance soap box ass, and reminds us how committed and vital an actor he still is.