Monday, February 17, 2014

Films of 2013: "All Is Lost"

February 17, 2014


"All Is Lost" opens in the middle of the action: Robert Redford's character (referred to in the credits as "Our Man") is on a sailboat in the middle of (possibly) the Atlantic Ocean. He is interrupted in his sleep by what turns out to be a collision with a shipping container. A hole is gauged in the boat, causing massive flooding.

The action that follows occurs over the course of apparently eight days. The location is primarily the sea, along with various storms, although the two predominant set pieces against this primary backdrop are a sailboat and a life raft.

Yet what makes this unlike other films with stories that feature a lone (human) survivor lost at sea (e.g., "Cast Away," "Life of Pi"), "Our Man" is quite literally the only character we spend the whole movie with. Rare is it for a story to feature and center on one central character, and yet be so compelling. You really get the sense that this is an experienced sailor, as well as an experienced man, a patient man, and a persevering man, against all odds. This is a tour-de-force performance in the actor-director's half-century career. 


And while the aforementioned films comparatively look like fantasies, this is the real thing. I refer specifically to the experience aspect. The experience of being at sea. The experience of being alone. And the experience of fighting the physical, natural and emotional elements of life to survive. 

I'll be honest, I had just about given up hope on this film (like "Our Man" may appear to at times), considering its potentially existential and secular worldview. Then, the unexpected happened. This is a film that sneaks up on you. It's a story that reminds us of humanity, and encourages us to rise to the occasion. 

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