(All Images: LIONSGATE)
The writer and director of the Oscar nominated film Margin Call, J.C. Chandor came up with the concept for the radical film All Is Lost while commuting daily on trains in the Northeast and passing boats in dry dock storage. Not since 1971’s Formula 1 racing epic Le Mans, starring the late Steve McQueen, has anyone successfully built a script around a solitary figure with sparse dialogue. This writer believes that only Redford and McQueen had the audacity to take on such a project. To the uninitiated, McQueen (as we’ve learned so many years after his 1980 death) turned down 94 films. Among them: The Bodyguard (which was written exclusively with McQueen in mind), Apocalypse Now, and Rambo.
The script for All Is Lost barely exceeds 30-pages. Viewers are forced to tap into their own sensibilities to fill in the background of the films only character played by Redford and billed in the credits only as Our Man. Here’s what we do know.
Redford’s character presumably has a family somewhere. He writes a mournful letter to them stating that whatever is believed, he sincerely tried. Crisis strikes when his 39-foot yacht called the Virginia Jean collides with a shipping container floating in the Indian Ocean to Redford’s measured consternation. The film builds as an existential story of survival. Redford repairs the fiberglass gash to the boat, but is otherwise left without navigational functions and damaged radio communications. Redford surveys his situation (including climbing a 65 foot mast, which I have experienced myself) and discovers a major storm is heading straight for the yacht, prompting his survival instincts.
With the clock ticking, Redford’s character stockpiles rations, attempts to unsuccessfully bilge-pump water until the craft capsizes. He deploys a life raft and begins plotting his location using a sextant while ingeniously capturing fresh water for hydration. A passing commercial shipping vessel leads Redford to fire two flares and scream for help as the cargo ship, seemingly oblivious to the flares continues on without rescuing “Our Man”. This is a statement of commercial greed and an absence of empathy at its worst. I’ll close by reiterating a reviewer to characterized the film as “Off the chart brilliance”.
Filmed in 2013 and released in 2014 with very little marketing or advertising, it does appear somewhat distressing to hear that Robert Redford may retire from acting and focus on directing. I for one, hope the hell he has a change of heart. This is a film worth seeing as an example of a true actor at his zenith. With credits including All The President’s Men, Brubaker, The Sting, Legal Eagles and more, Redford can certainly afford to toss in the towel and focus on his annual Sundance Film Festival, founded in Salt Lake City in August 1978. But I beg to differ and hope Redford continues to select film projects with the courage and tenacity that has been his hallmark — even for decades.