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Robert Redford.
J. C. Chandor.
J. C. Chandor.
Running Time
106 minutes

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All Is Lost
An Ocean Runs Through It

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When a sailor (Redford) on a solo cruise finds that the hull of his boat has been pierced, a struggle with the elements - and to stay alive - begins.

All Is Lost

All the best to the poor schmoe who’ll have to trawl through All Is Lost looking for a clip to show if — or, more likely, when — Robert Redford is nominated for Best Actor at next year’s Academy Awards. Oscar clips are, by their very nature, showy, the actor’s equivalent of a compilation of mad footballing skillz on YouTube; they are the epitome of gimme gimme gimme, a CliffsNotes of a performance that should include everything that the Academy usually looks for when handing out its golden gongs. They will usually involve crying, or screaming, or scream-crying, or some kind of ungodly histrionics.

There is nothing like this in Redford’s performance in All Is Lost. Well, there’s a brief moment about two-thirds in when, after help has passed by his unnamed sailor, he has a mini-freak-out. But his voice, ravaged by the sun and lack of water, has gone. There are no cries of “Why me?”, “No, God, no!” or “Khaaaaaaaan!” Instead, Redford’s sailor takes every setback — and there are many, many setbacks in J. C. Chandor’s incredible film; so many that we feel compelled to ask exactly what Redford’s character has done to piss God off — with remarkable, low-key stoicism, trying to plan a way out. And, unlike its far flashier close cousin Gravity (another tale of survival in the harshest environment possible), where Sandra Bullock spends most of the movie talking to herself, Redford does it almost entirely in silence.

Before Chandor’s film screened in Cannes earlier this year, rumour had it that his follow-up to the excessively talky, and excellent, financial drama, Margin Call, had gone entirely in the opposite direction, and was a silent film. It’s not, of course — sound plays a huge part in All Is Lost, letting us know when a squall is about to rage, or when a boat has had a potentially fatal collision with a large cargo container, floating in the middle of the ocean for no discernible reason. But Chandor has deliberately stripped away dialogue, and Redford’s voice. There are about eight lines of dialogue in the whole thing — most of those come at the beginning in a doom-laden voice-over from Redford, seemingly about to give up on the whole shebang, apologising to a family he doesn’t name for reasons he doesn’t divulge. Later, he makes an SOS call. And later still, he rasps the word “help”. That’s it.

Otherwise, Chandor has crafted as pure an action film as can be. Nothing blows up here, save an inflatable dinghy; but everything that Redford does is action, whether it’s something as low-key as trying to repair the hole in his boat’s hull by improvising a patch or deciding what food to salvage, or something as dramatic as being flung into
the roiling ocean in the middle of a storm straight out of Shakespeare. And that this action grips us, despite the absence of dialogue or backstory, is testament to Chandor’s assured, bare-bones direction, and Redford’s performance. Everything we need to know about his sailor is in front of us — he’s an older gentleman who’s cruising around the world in his own yacht, so he’s clearly successful, but a loner; he’s determined, resourceful, and ineffably calm in a crisis. This simple knowledge — along with Chandor’s canny casting of an icon, with so much goodwill in his baggage already — welds us to the sailor’s struggle, compelling us to will him along and prove the opening voice-over, and the film’s very title, a fallacy.

Redford has never been better, conveying everything with looks, gestures, body language. At no point do we catch him acting; instead, he’s simply being. Of course, the poor Oscar clips guy might not agree.

A triumph of pure cinema and wonderful visual storytelling from Chandor, who must now be considered the real deal, while Redford is sublime in what could well be the performance of his career.

Reviewed by Chris Hewitt

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All is Lost (2013)

Just when you thought Captain Phillips had the ‘tension on the high seas’ genre all sewn up, along comes another ocean-based drama to shred your nerves. All Is Lost is the second feature film from writer-director J.C. Chandor and stars Robert Redford as the lone skipper who, after suffering damage to his yacht in the opening scene, is engaged in a gruelling struggle for survival in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Whereas in Captain Phillips the threat was a very human one, here there is no-one ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Biggus at 19:51, 10 April 2014 | Report This Post

sort yor shit out empire

sort your shit out emoire you ungateful non internet random drunkj guy appreciating bulshit cunts. 5 stars for being a cunt ... More

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Posted by RLTShirley at 03:14, 23 March 2014 | Report This Post

Deathly Dull

If the director was trying to show how boring and monotonous it would be to stranded on life boat for a week he did an admirable job. Lacking the poetry of Life of Pi or the tension of Gravity, this was a dull story of a sailor trapped on a life raft, yet perfectly capable and never really in danger. Robert Redford doesn't bring anything interesting to the role and could just have easily been replaced by any actor and it wouldn't have changed anything about the film. One to avoid. ... More

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Posted by DJ Satan at 23:29, 02 January 2014 | Report This Post

Good CGI monster but found the whole 'it was a dream thing confusing'

I dont understand where Ben Afflek suddenly got that flying machine from at the end, did he invent it because i thought he was supposed to be a downies like rain man? Also how come when John Leguiziamo turns up he already knows who killed the two austrian chicks when he was supposed to be in a coma during that scene? And what happened to that guy with the eye patch at the begining he seemed like he was going to be a real important character but then they never mentioned him again? Really confusi... More

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Posted by RLTShirley at 01:11, 31 December 2013 | Report This Post


Was he even doing out there to begin with? It's increasingly engaging, and credit to Redford for undertaking roles - and delivering this performance - rather than churning out dreck like Red 2 or Die Hard 5. Still, I found it to be a long way from classic. ... More

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Posted by tysmuse at 23:13, 30 December 2013 | Report This Post

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