At 77 Robert Redford is no longer the Adonis he once was. His face is lined and weathered. His hands are spotted and his blonde hair is now mixed with tufts of white. But what he does have is grit and determination, which come through loud (albeit silently) and clear in “All is Lost.”
Written and directed by J.C. Chandor, “All is Lost” is a 106 minutes character study of a man at the end of his rope…literally. Known only as Our Man in the credits, Redford portrays someone stranded at sea with just himself for company (no “Wilson” for him). We have no information about his back story. We just know that he was sleeping on his boat when it crashes into a shipping container on the Indian Ocean. His situation goes from bad to worse as his boat first takes on water, and then, as horrific storms come and go, his boat disintegrates, leaving him with his just his lifeboat. Our Man keeps busy…mentally and physically…charting his course, devising mechanisms for fresh water, fishing…doing anything to give himself the chance of survival and rescue. At least we assume this is the case, because Our Man never speaks. Only in one scene does he finally say, “F**k.” I find it very strange (or perhaps I’m the strange one), that he never talks to himself. Since he utters barely a peep, we’re not entirely sure what he’s thinking. One thing you come to realize is that Redford doesn’t have the most expressive face, and even less so in “All is Lost.” So when an idea comes to him, or when he finally gives in to disgust or desperation, his limited expressions take on more resonance.
The cinematography by Frank G. Demark and Peter Zuccarini, both underwater and above, is simply astounding. Shots of the small lifeboat in the middle of the Indian Ocean will take your breath away. Alex Ebert’s score is terrific. For much of the film there is no music, just the thrashing of the water. Gradually sounds come into play—never overbearing or intrusive—the music is just right. And the music at the end is perfect. It begins with almost a militaristic melancholia tone, and then, ever so slightly, is mixed with a bit of…hope?
“All is Lost” is a very different cinematic experience and gives us a Robert Redford we’ve never before seen in a performance that is most definitely his best. Who knew so much could be said without saying a word?