We are used to seeing films depicting what can go wrong at sea. Earlier this year we saw one aspect in Captain Phillips. The end of the year offers a different story of what can happen in this scenario.
All Is Lost tells the story of an unknown man trying to fix his boat after it collides with a storage container in the middle of the Indian Ocean. As the man reaches a point of apparent safety he must battle the forces of nature as he drifts into a violent storm if he wants to survive. With no radio and electricity his only hope of survival is to hope that he drifts into a shipping lane.
Directed by J.C. Chandor, this film uses only one cast member. Whilst this may seem a little strange it aids the telling of how this man tries to survive. Robert Redford plays the man at sea, who goes the entire film without a name. In fact we go the whole film knowing nothing about the man who is stranded in the middle of the ocean; however these are questions that are all too trivial in comparison with what takes place in the film.
While the ship tumbles and crashes against the violent waves we are able to see the frailty in the man who refuses to give up; the attention is purely on him and that is where it stays. Chandor’s decision to go with only one actor makes this film almost seem minimalist, though with intense scene after intense scene that is thrown out of the window and all that remains is just how gruelling it was to make this film.
As well as being the only actor, Redford remains mute for the vast majority of the film, providing his main amount of speech in the opening voice over monologue. For the rest of the film it is Redford’s actions, the sea and the sky that take centre stage. When we watch films about sinking ships screams of sheer panic are normally what is provided, however All Is Lost provides a much more realistic view of what some people do in that actual situation. Instead of people running across the deck screaming, we see a man trying to patch up the hole in his boat – calm and collected – even though he knows it may all be in vain.
Survival stories are fast becoming their own mini-genre due to the great reception many of them receive at the box office. Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity was a huge box office hit, encapsulating audiences around the globe. All Is Lost is a film that fits well into this category. The film does what any survival film should do, it makes the audience ask ‘what would I do?’ That is a question I found myself asking all the way through the film, often partnered with ‘I wouldn’t do that’, though I am no sea expert.
While I enjoyed this film in parts, there were times when it felt a little bit lacking; the film seems to be neverending. The days that take place in the film are long and seem to blur into one. Some might say this is down to a lack of speech though it is possibly the ambiguous ending that ends the film on a slightly disappointing note. However it is the way in which Robert Redford becomes the man at sea that is truly brilliant; the unknown back story of the character invites us to call him Robert. At 77 Redford for me puts in a performance that completely throws away his past work, The Sting and Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid to name but two. This film is definitely worth a watch showing how one man refuses to give up ’til the very end, no matter what the outcome.