All Is Lost (opening today) could also have been called "The Old Man and the Sea," because those are pretty much the only two elements shown on-screen for the duration of the film. Well, technically it's the Indian Ocean, not a sea, and although Robert Redford might be considered old, he is still a phenomenal actor and here he gives us a great one-man performance.
But other than Redford, the rest of All Is Lost is all wet. This is a movie that will harken thoughts of other, better movies that have come before it, films like Robert Zemeckis's, Cast Away, starring Tom Hanks or even last year's Life of Pi directed by Ang Lee. All Is Lost is Castaway minus the annoying plot and stripped away of any purpose. It is also an isolated film like Life of Pi, but given the cinematic visual splendor of Pi, All Is Lost almost feels like a high school production.
The film begins with a voice-over, as we see a capsized ship bobbing in the waves. This is nearly the entirety of dialogue for the whole film. We flashback eight days earlier and we see a man - never given a name in the film - who is out on the water in his boat. To say his situation gradually worsens would be an understatement. We know from the voice-over that this man will be fighting until the bitter end...and that he does.
There's really not much more to it. Director JC Chandor's first film, Margin Call, suffered from the same problems as this, his second effort. Crammed full of talented actors, Margin Call was just dull and boring. Robert Redford fills up every frame of All Is Lost, but his journey - adventure? - just barely leaves a pebble's ripple.
The character has no name, there is no purpose, no story and no attempt to reveal anything about him, therefore giving the audience no reason to care. Is this film some sort of symbolic tale meant to represent mankind's struggle to survive? If so, the meaning was lost on me. Again, this film chooses a visual narrative similar to Life of Pi but sinks 20,000 leagues beneath it. With Pi, we cared if our protagonist survived. With this guy, we sort of hope he makes it, I guess, because...I don't know, what else is there for us to do for 91 minutes?
At one point we find out the name of the man's boat and I thought it may have led into a slow reveal of this man's life, where he was headed on that fateful day and maybe why he finds himself alone on a boat. But any hope of the story finding rescue quickly dissipated. This is simply the story of a man - in a vacuum - lost at sea, and that's all the writer/director Chandor wants you to know.
There's no wonder why Redford would have chosen such a role and he delivers in spades. He is the proverbial message in the bottle, the one thing worth finding in a film that hopelessly bobs and drifts ad nauseum.
Genre: Action, Drama
Run Time: 1 hour, 31 minutes, Rated PG-13
Starring: Robert Redford
Written & Directed by J.C. Chandor (Margin Call)
Opens locally on Friday, Oct 25, 2013 (check for show times).
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How to read Tom Santilli's "Star Ratings:"
- 5 Stars: Exceptional, must-see movie
- 4 Stars: Very good movie, not without flaws
- 3 Stars: The movie was just OK, leaves a lot to be desired
- 2 Stars: Pretty bad, a let-down, disappointing, but with some redeeming qualities
- 1 Star: Awful, sloppy, a total waste of time