All Is Lost (2013) (PG-13)

"All Is Lost" is an example in great decisions. It features the perfect choice in actor made at the perfect time in his career. The film, which is just as bleak as its title might implies, features the lone actor better than any other movie prior.
The film that will probably draw the most references when you're talking about this film is "Cast Away"...and it shouldn't. With that film, Tom Hanks gave a flashy performance about a man slowly loosing his mind from isolation. For this effect, we have other actors than just Hanks. "All Is Lost" is more realistic, more calm, and a very anti-Hollywood movie, which is precisely the reason that it has gone overlooked and unloved.
J. C. Chandor has proven himself to be intelligent with his debut feature film "Margin Call". He assembled the top names in the business and made a film about finances somewhat interesting and intriguing. With "All Is Lost", only his sophomore film, he proves himself a force to be reckoned with. It's a staggering achievement for its lack of dialogue and for the pain-staking reality that it lets sink in.
Beautifully photographed, the first moments of the film feature of a grim monologue given to us by a nameless man played by Robert Redford.
He is woken up from his sleep by the sound of water pouring into his boat, the Virginia Jean. A cargo crate has slipped loose of a ship and the sharp metal corner has pierced his boat. Up and awake, assessing the situation, the first scene of "All Is Lost" proves that this man (referred to as Our Man) is very resourceful and calm-headed even in crises.
He routinely finds a way to push the crate away, seeing the shoes it was filled with float into the distance. Now he needs to repair the hole that's in his boat.
The film that "All Is Lost" reminded me of most was "Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles" which, I'll admit, is an add comparison. It could be the lack of dialogue, but I think the reason I liken the two films in my head is that power that both directors are brave enough to place in their viewer's hands.
Because of the silence that overtakes the screen—not complete silence, but verbal silence—it allows for something to happen, the audience to think.
We ponder what the reasons for the actions we see are; and certainly there are some actions that need clarification that are never clarified.
Our Man seems to have left a family behind in bitterness. His very reason for being on the sea is to leave something behind. This is never stated, in fact we never receive needless backstory on Our Man—thank you, J. C. Chandor—it's just what I hypothesize.
Compared to this year's more famous survival movie, "Gravity", "All Is Lost" is by far the smarter picture but no where near as visually stunning.
Redford gives a perfect performance, one that is filled with so many nuances and great emotion. You don't always have to see a person cry to empathize with them. Our Man is level headed when confronted with storms and dehydration. Sure, he makes a few mistakes, he's allowed that—he's human.
Perhaps the greatest achievement of the film is its restraint.
Critics of the movie could simply call it "Robert Redford on a Boat" and that would be a apropos title for the film. Still, I can't help but be amazed with the simplistic power of "All Is Lost". For a film only featuring a man and a boat, "All Is Lost" manages to cover a broad range of emotions including frustration, helplessness, joy, and desolation.
True, it's is not a great allegorical work; why should it be? "Life of Pi" had a much more God-driven point and "All Is Lost" certainly has God in it. Our Man gets so mad at everything that he raises his head to the skies and curses. In that moment, we can see that he's considering a cruel God in heaven, letting him suffer for entertainment. We'd probably all have the same reaction.
Though the movie does have a few flaws, it has a picture perfect ending and an achingly beautiful score.
It's the type of a movie that will live on for a long time.

Score: ★★★★

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