There are several excellent movies about the will to survive against all odds, and 2013 has enjoyed its fair share of them already. But thanks to a powerful, almost completely silent performance by Robert Redford, All is Lost is one of the best.
When my husband and I first started dating, he told me that his life goal was to sail around the world (and grow a long-ass beard in the process). At first I thought this was just something he said because he figured it would impress me. But after ten years of marriage, I know this really is his dream. Unfortunately, after I saw All is Lost I decided there was no way in hell I was gonna let it happen. But he can feel free to still grow a ridiculous beard during our golden years if that will console him in any way.
The movie begins with a voice-over by Redford, reviewing what we eventually come to realize is a final goodbye message to his family — quite literally a “message in a bottle” that he’ll throw out into the vast Indian Ocean in the hopes it will be found one day. We never learn anything else about his family, and we only get the vaguest of hints about his background, where he’s originally from, and why he’s out in the middle of nowhere on a 39-foot yacht in the first place. We never even learn his name. (Redford is listed simply as “Our Man” in the credits.)
All we do know is that eight days before writing that note, Our Man awoke alone on his boat to find that a stray cargo container had rammed a large hole into the side of the “Virginia Jean” . . . and she was quickly taking on water.
The trailer for All is Lost was one of those that made me angry because it gave away much too much of the story’s twists and turns, so I’m not going to supply any further details about what happens. Suffice it to say that Mother Nature is not kind to Our Man, and he is pushed to his physical, mental and spiritual limits before the movie ends.
When I was raving about this film to a few friends, they all had the same reaction: “Really? He doesn’t say ANYTHING throughout the the movie? And it’s not boring?”
My answer was that no, it is certainly not boring — in fact, I found All is Lost more riveting to watch than any other film this year, aside from Gravity and 12 Years a Slave. And regarding the silence, I appreciated the fact that writer/director J.C. Chandor (Margin Call) took a realistic route. I hate it when movie characters talk to themselves and it’s so obvious that the screenwriter could find no other way to express the information contained in that dialogue. I don’t know about you, but I never talk to myself out loud. Score one Sanity Point for me!
And in comparison to this year’s other “survival movies,” such as the aforementioned Gravity and Captain Phillips, I felt much more of an emotional connection to Our Man than to Bullock’s Dr. Stone or Hanks’ titular character. You go through so much with him. You feel his initial determination and hope. You respect his clear-headed course of action and strategic thinking. You feel his growing frustration and desperation as the days pass. You wince at his physical pain. You curse his setbacks. You want — you need — him to find a way out of this unwinnable situation. And so, like me, you may actually cry out during the movie’s last shot. It will probably divide audiences, but I thought it was perfect.
For conveying so much through his facial expressions — not to mention doing almost all of his own harrowing stuntwork — I’m really pulling for Redford to get an Oscar nomination this year.
So yes, I’m highly recommending All is Lost. It’s one of my favorite movies of the year. After you see it you’ll be more grateful for the roof that’s over your head and the surety of the ground beneath you. And if you have any sailors in your family or group of friends, you might end up banning them from solo, long-distance voyages. They’re welcome to join my husband’s pity party.