Tuesday, February 18, 2014

All Is Lost (2013)(Spoiler Review)

**This review contains spoilers**

A rocky disturbance disrupts a sailor’s voyage one morning. The Sailor (Robert Redford) awakes on the Virgina Jean to find puddles of water on the floor, and a large hole in the hull. A shipping container is stuck in the boat, so the sailor uses emergency equipment to free the ship. After a quick touch up repair job on the damaged hull, The Sailor stops the flooding temporarily, but he runs into another big problem during a fierce storm.

After the storm, the Virgina Jean is damaged beyond repair, so The Sailor uses a life raft for transportation. The remnants of the Virgina Jean sink to the bottom of the ocean, and The Sailor is stuck on the raft without a reliable form of shelter. As time passes, The Sailor is running out of options and supplies, and The Sailor runs into some trouble during a fishing break in shark infested waters…….

It’s all about Robert Redford here. With the exception of a reaching arm (more on that later), Redford is the only human character you’ll see here. There’s a soliloquy at the beginning for The Sailor’s last good-byes to the world in a farewell letter, but Redford speaks his first words in real time at the twenty-two minute mark to make an SOS call.

Redford barely speaks here, but that’s not a problem. Redford’s remarkable ability to convey The Sailor’s frustrations, his anger, and a crushing sense of hopelessness with facial expressions and body language deserves admiration. For one hour and forty-five minutes, Redford is the only human being you’ll see in full view, but his captivating performance hooks you in. You’re rooting for this resourceful and clever man to survive, you’re waiting on his rescue, and I lost track for counting the “edge of your seat” close calls here (sharks, the storm, etc.).

We’re in the final stages of the movie, and The Sailor is losing his will to fight. Two passing freighter ships missed The Sailor’s flare signals for help. At night, The Sailor spots another boat, but he’s out of flares, so he starts a fire using his journal and pieces of paper for a signal. The fire is out of control, and in a matter of seconds, flames engulf the life raft.

The Sailor jumps into the water to escape the burning raft. He’s trying to keep his head above water, but The Sailor throws in the towel. He willingly sinks to the bottom, but a passing boat spots the burning raft. Using his last ounce of strength, The Sailor swims to the top, and to close out the movie, you see an arm from the boat reaching towards The Sailor. The Sailor grabs the arm, the unknown boater pulls him up, and the screen cuts to black to end the movie.

Great stuff. Throughout the movie, you’re waiting for that one uplifting moment for The Sailor. Writer/director J.C. Chandor did a good job of constantly teasing the audience with the close calls (i.e. the passing freighter ships). And I have no shame in saying I believed in The Sailor’s demise at the end 100% with no questions asked, because Redford sold the moment with a devastated and defeated look on his face.

The Sailor’s swim to the boat takes the top spot for nerve-racking moments in All Is Lost, because you’re holding your breath until the last second, and Chandor pulled the plug at the right moment. The second The Sailor grabs the boater’s hands, the screen immediately cuts to black, so your imagination has a chance to run wild with possibilities for The Sailor’s rescue. It’s a satisfying finale, because The Sailor had to suffer through eight days of hell out in the middle of nowhere, but he made it to the end.

What’s missing in this year’s list of Oscar nominees? A Best Actor nomination for Robert Redford. All Is Lost received one nomination for Best Sound Editing, but that’s it. A little while ago, Robert Redford pointed the finger at Lionsgate in an interview. Redford blamed poor marketing and a lack of distribution for Oscar snubs.

I’m still working my way through all the Oscar nominated stuff for 2013, but Redford deserved a nomination for Best Actor, and there’s no denying it. I won’t go on a rant for J.C. Chandor, because I can think of more deserving choices for Best Director (Spike Jonze for Her, Alfonso Cuaron for Gravity, etc.), but Redford is a noticeable snub for this year’s Academy Awards. Is Redford’s snub a grave tragedy? No, but he deserved the recognition.

All Is Lost is a captivating and emotional survival film, featuring a superb performance from Robert Redford. Redford’s performance hooks you in, and you’ll have a  hard time taking your eyes off the screen for the main attraction, and the only living character in full view throughout the movie. And kudos to director/writer J.C. Chandor for his steady and precise work behind the camera. Also, Chandor deserves credit for a dreary roller coaster ride to the end, with enough ups and downs to keep you on the edge of your seat during The Sailor’s fight for survival.

Rating: 9/10

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