Film Review – All Is Lost

All is Lost Poster


Written and Directed by J.C. Chandor

Release Date March 6th 2014

Set against the backdrop of the Indian Ocean while actually filmed in the Bahamas and Mexico, this ambitious project goes two steps beyond other recent survival tales with a minimal cast – Our Man – Robert Redford, and almost no dialogue.


In 2009’s Buried, Ryan Reynolds carried an entire film from the inside of a coffin in the ground somewhere in the Middle East.


In 2013, Alfonso Cuarón, and his son Jonás Cuarón, gave us the masterpiece Gravity where one woman’s fight for survival allowed the audience to be there in space with Sandra Bullock as she tried to return to Earth following the destruction of her space shuttle.


JC Chandor brings us the impressive All is Lost.

Our man is sailing peacefully 1700 nautical miles east of the Sumatran coast when a bump in the night reveals his tiny yacht has struck a floating shipping container.

Rather than react with any kind of verbal expression, our man simply goes about freeing the little boat from the metal hulk and repairs the gaping hole in the fibreglass hull as best he can.

A storm hits shortly after that and he is forced to abandon ship and set sail in his inflatable life raft.

Somehow Chandor and Redford stretch out the initial time on the damaged boat for entire first hour of the film.

It will come as no surprise to anyone who has seen the trailer for this film that at no point in the film can you expect to see anything besides Robert Redford floating on something in the middle of the ocean.

That Redford can carry an entire film with little more than a curl of the lips or a squint of the eyes says much about his pedigree.

The only element of the film that caused me some restlessness was the cinematography, which while impressive, made it difficult to believe they were really out in the middle of the ocean on a sinking vessel.

As opposed to Captain Phillips where the action is primarily set on a huge container ship and static shots can be believed, the nature of some of the pictures in All is Lost hinted at both shallow depths and CGI.

That said, whenever it felt a little too safe and calm, Redford would end up pitching into the drink and it would seem as real as anything depicted in The Perfect Storm.

After Chandor’s great take on the mortgage crisis in 2009’s Margin Call, I was looking for meaning in this film. I found it in subtle places; such as Redford’s peril emanating from the abandoned container full of sneakers adrift in the ocean, with several container ships later in the film failing to rectify the wrongdoing of sinking a man’s boat.

It may seem a thin link, but this is a story of survival, of man’s ingenuity and calm in the face of crisis, about what really matters when a man faces nature in a life or death scenario.

A thoroughly thought provoking and enjoyable piece of cinema.

 4 stars.

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