Tagline: Never give up
And with these words, we are taken eight days earlier to the mighty waters of the Indian Ocean, where a man – Our Man, as the credits identify him – wakes up to find his sailboat flooding with water. A shipping container has rammed into its hull, and water is rushing into the small vessel. As he tries to save his boat, find his way across the ocean through celestial navigation, and engineer a rescue, we quickly figure out that luck isn’t on his side.
But Our Man isn’t willing to give up. Old and weathered but resilient and resourceful, he battles the elements alone as his solo voyage turns into a struggle for survival. His is the only face we get to see, the only voice we get to hear, that is when he speaks, which isn’t often. He doesn’t say much after the initial monologue, uttering only an occasional word here and there during the next one and a half hour.
But who is he? Where does he come from? Why is he here? We never find out, but we can surmise … and our guesses probably say more about us than they do about him.
We aren’t fed a back story, continuously bombarded with a vocal explanation of his every action, or offered dazzling visuals as gimmicks (a la Gravity, a film with which All Is Lost inevitably draws comparison). And that is either the film’s biggest strength or its biggest weakness; it just depends on how you, the viewer, look at it.
A very interesting cinematic project, All Is Lost is simply the story of a man lost at sea, and all the allegories that come with it, presented in a more nuanced and sparse manner than most Hollywood features would dare to go for. Robert Redford is remarkable as the protagonist, as he single handedly navigates us through the film’s narrative using just his actions and expressions to give us a sense of what his character is going through. And J. C. Chandor’s remarkable use of sounds combined with the film’s haunting score helps bring its claustrophobic atmosphere to life.
At times it does feel a little sluggish and repetitive, and viewers with sailing experience will probably offer a more scathing take on Our Man’s efforts and how realistically they were depicted. But none of that takes away from the film’s very intriguing execution and structure. All Is Lost is definitely not for everyone, and many viewers will have issues with its pace and style. But whether you find it riveting or dull, the movie will probably leave you with much to think of, not just with respect to the story, but also its filmmaking choices, vaguely defined protagonist, and dialogue-free execution. And for film enthusiasts who enjoy this manner of storytelling or appreciate something that is a bit out of the ordinary, All Is Lost will offer an affecting, rewarding experience.