Thursday, October 31, 2013


Redford powers through solo screen voyage in 'All Is Lost'

Actors don't get much more iconic than Robert Redford. A Hollywood superstar since the 1970s, he founded the Sundance Film Festival, Institute, and cable TV channel in support of emerging filmmakers, and has been a tireless activist for the environment. His one-man seagoing thriller, All Is Lost, is a gift to fans who want to see Redford in action.

But it also feels like a gift from a grateful industry to Redford, a harrowing physical workout of a film that shows off what his 77-year-old body is capable of, while proving that Redford can still command the screen for 100 minutes all by himself.

The movie is written and directed by J. C. Chandor (Margin Call)—although "written" is a relative term in a film that is almost completely without dialogue, except for a few sparse sentences spoken at the very beginning. There is a definite narrative shape to the story, however, and a strong emotional arc that Redford's character undergoes. 

 Like Gravity, it begins at what seems to be an ending: a lone sailor finds his craft and equipment disabled hundreds of miles from anywhere out in the middle of the ocean. It's a slightly less enthralling, more claustrophobic experience than Gravity, but All Is Lost is similarly intense in exploring the outer limits of human tenacity.

1700 nautical miles from the Sumatra Straits in the Indian Ocean, an unnamed sailor wakes up to find his 39-foot yacht taking on water. We have no idea why this obvious Yank of a sailor (his boat is called the Virginia Jean) is out here alone, and we never find out. 

All we know is that water is suddenly rushing in through a window over his desk in the cabin below, flooding his computer and radio equipment. 

To avoid spoilers, any further discussion of the plot should end here. Suffice it to say that tribulations involve a massive storm at sea, dwindling food and water supplies, desperate repairs, an inflatable life raft, sharks, and of course, fear itself.

Redford resonates with the audience as a gritty Everyman who refuses to give up. Kudos are due the veteran star in this physically and emotionally exhausting turn for keeping viewers involved—as the sailor keeps his wits together— through sheer strength of will. 

The filmmaking drifts here or there, but Redford powers the story through. (Read more)

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