thu 17/10/2019

All Is Lost | reviews, news & interviews

All Is Lost

All Is Lost

A philosophical display of tenacity and wonder gives Robert Redford the role of a lifetime

Robert Redford stars as a solitary sailor in J C Chandor's All Is Lost

Going from a talky debut with Margin Call, J C Chandor plunges Robert Redford into the solitary, (virtually) silent sea. All Is Lost is Hemingway for now. As the story of a solitary sailor in a single-handed adventure in the Indian Ocean, metaphor and meaning abound. Unlike some heavy, worthy piece of obtuse art house, however, Chandor wrests a tense, puzzling dynamic from a situation that could go cold in another filmmaker’s hands.

Redford once said that for all his work with the Sundance Festival, no one ever returned the favour and gave him a job – until now. Chandor, a laudable Sundance darling, has given Redford the role of a lifetime. The only star in an entire film set onboard a troubled yacht, Chandor puts such emotional pressure on Redford that, were either of them less than professional, the whole film would collapse.

His smallest gestures capture our imagination, leading us to tendrils of his character’s thoughts

Beginning with a narration (and then somewhat later with utterances over a two-way radio), All Is Lost is famously dialogue-free but vividly rife with terror, pride, hurt, hope and bravery. Redford plays Our Man, someone rich enough to sail his own yacht singlehandedly in the open sea – and someone egocentric enough not to follow seamen survival rules. When his boat hits an object and begins to founder, Our Hero makes some odd choices – shaving instead of plugging the hole – almost as if he’d made up his mind already that, true to its title, all is lost.

Watching Redford mix fiberglass, shave, sleep in a hammock and learn to use a new, glitzy sextant is riveting for many reasons. A familiar face, we gaze upon his features, comparing them with where we saw him most recently – maybe rewatching The Great Gatsby or Spy Game. We watch him for his skill, how he wears his celebrity and what we think he thinks of himself. His smallest gestures capture our imagination, leading us to tendrils of his character’s thoughts. All in all, All Is Lost is a philosophical display of tenacity and wonder.

An action film without witty dialogue, a drama with one player, a well-versed yachtmaster will see immediately where Redford’s character goes wrong. This is important: the more you know about sailing, the more puzzling the story is, the more mysterious and meaningful Redford’s actions become. He is a seaman, but he is, several times, incompetent. Whether he is purposely so or not is the key to the entire film.

Chandor gets the most out of actors. They like him. (If you haven’t seen his debut Margin Call, fix that omission as soon as). He is also a director who loves his audience, rewarding us with arresting visuals and, especially here, incredible audio textures.

All Is Lost is a must-see film: think of Aronofsky’s The Fountain set on a boat and you’ll almost be there. A ripe parable for just about anything that puzzles you, the combination of Chandor and Redford leads to one of this year’s finest, most emotionally satisfying features.

Overleaf: watch the trailer to All is Lost

Chandor wrests a tense, puzzling dynamic from a situation that could go cold in another filmmaker’s hands.

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

Explore topics

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters

Advertising feature

★★★★★

A compulsive, involving, emotionally stirring evening – theatre’s answer to a page-turner.
The Observer, Kate Kellaway

 

Direct from a sold-out season at Kiln Theatre the five star, hit play, The Son, is now playing at the Duke of York’s Theatre for a strictly limited season.

 

★★★★★

This final part of Florian Zeller’s trilogy is the most powerful of all.
The Times, Ann Treneman

 

Written by the internationally acclaimed Florian Zeller (The Father, The Mother), lauded by The Guardian as ‘the most exciting playwright of our time’, The Son is directed by the award-winning Michael Longhurst.

 

Book by 30 September and get tickets from £15*
with no booking fee.