'All Is Lost' Mini-Review

December 10, 2013

In the year of Gravity—Sandra Bullock's one-woman, $630-million-grossing show about an astronaut stuck in space and trying to survive—it's not terribly surprising that the similar, but lower-key, All Is Lost got, well, lost. The basic plots are pretty close to one another (one person struggles against merciless nature) and Gravity features the biggest movie star in the world while All Is Lost features a past-his-prime icon.

It's too bad, though: All Is Lost is a powerful, moving film anchored by a Hollywood icon giving it one more go.

Set somewhere in the Indian Ocean, "Our Man" (as he is called in the credits) is adrift and taking on water, having collided with a shipping container. He is on some sort of one-man, cross-ocean trek, manning his sailboat all on his lonesome. We know his reason for doing so no more than we know his name; the strength of writer-director J.C. Chandor's film is that it is virtually speech-free. After the narration of a brief goodbye note from Our Man, there are only two or three lines of dialogue in the whole film. There are no flashbacks, no rambling by our distressed character, no vocalized heartache about love and loss and life.

In this, Chandor's film actually surpasses Alfonso Cuaron's Gravity. He has the confidence in the story to know it will tell itself. Whereas Bullock is forced to narrate her story for us—telling her (briefly on the scene costar George Clooney) about her life's traumas, having her jabber on as she tries to survive in space—Redford tells the story with his face. Grim determination and a no-nonsense approach to patching up his ship and finding help are the order of the day.

Redford gives one of the three best performances of the year. (The other two thus far: Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave) and Joaquin Phoenix (Her). We shall see if Leonardo DiCaprio makes the cut for Wolf of Wall Street.) He is the only man onscreen for all 106 minutes and he captivates. If he isn't at least nominated for best actor at the Oscars this year, it will be a travesty. And you could make a plausible case that he should win.

Published under: Movie Reviews