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Movie Review: 'All Is Lost'

All Is Lost

Starring Robert Redford
Directed by J.C Chandor
Rated PG-13

J.C. Chandor, the writer and director of All is Lost, wrote and directed a movie called Margin Call.  I saw Margin Call on a whim one day after it was first released.  If only for the fact the cast and plot were intriguing enough for me to allow it my time.  I walked away from Margin Call shocked at how well made it was, how the dialogue and the performances really carried the movie to the next level.  I was even more shocked when it was announced that the film was nominated for Best Screenplay at the 2012 Academy Awards, if for no other reason than the movie really flew under the radar along with having a day and date release with VOD .  So it was good that the Academy recognized a movie they normally don’t recognize.  All Is Lost, Chandor’s newest movie and starring one person and one person alone, Robert Redford, takes dialogue heavy nature that was Margin Call and throws it in the trash.  This is a movie about a man, conveying everything without really saying a word.

That approach makes All Is Lost a risky gamble and one that pays off in spades in one respect (Redford) but then trips itself up in another (the story).    But even with those trip ups, this is a film to see to watch an actor really show you why he’s been one of the best in the business for so long, even if his track record over the past 20+ years has been littered with films that couldn’t live up to what he brings to the table.   I mean really, Up Close and Personal, Lions for Lambs, The Last Castle…ouch is being kind, but Redford has always been able to upgrade those films, which is what great actors should do.  All is Lost, in many ways, is the perfect film for Redford.  And in many ways, it could’ve been a much better film for Redford.


Redford, who doesn’t even have a name in the film, wakes up on his boat one morning to find a storage container has rammed, punching a hole in the side with the water ruining his radio and computer equipment.  Through the process of getting it fixed and starting to figure out, with the use of maps, how to get himself to a part of the ocean that a shipping lane for help, he sees a huge storm coming his way.  The storm destroys his boat and leaves Redford on a lifeboat, with only his cunning, maps and a few supplies to try and navigate his way to these shipping lanes.  But with not only time but his supplies running out, sharks entering the mix and attempts at rescue once he reaches the shipping lanes futile, Redford must make the hard decision on how to move forward.

First and foremost, there is next to nothing in terms of dialogue and this is where Redford’s talents  not only come into play but the movie demonstrates a huge asset to the film…restraint.  It would’ve been super easy for a lot of directors and screenwriters to turn All is Lost into a dialogue heavy film, either thru narration or simply explaining every little detail with the main character talking to himself.  But Chandor lets Redford act with his eyes and emotion and he does a fantastic job of conveying in the simplest of ways, the uncertainty of what his character is dealing with.  Redford will receive some awards for this performance and rightfully so.

The script though, has a few holes.  The movie is one downer after another, watching Redford fight one storm, then another, sharks, broken ships, failed attempts at rescue, the movie doesn’t let the audience see Redford in any other way than just reacting to life altering situations.  Why is his character out in the middle of nowhere to begin with?  Why not show us why he likes being out on his boat or just give us moments that give us more insight into his character instead of seeing him navigate his way out of one disaster after another in ways that are just a bit too stoic?   It’s those little things that can elevate your movie into something really special.  Instead, you just have a movie that is really good, but not outstandingly great.  But All is Lost is completely worth seeing to watch an actor take a chance on a project; to show us why he’s been good in the game for so long.  

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