Film Capsule: All Is Lost

All Is Lost does the same thing for being lost at sea that Gravity does for being lost in space, with one major distinction – Gravity is an overwhelming achievement in directing, while All Is Lost is a overwhelming achievement in acting. This is not to disparage Sandra Bullock anymore than it is J.C. Chandor. It is simply to express that most of the superlatives reserved for Alfonso Cuaron’s role in Gravity are the same ones critics are using to describe Robert Redford’s performance throughout Lost.

In either case, the praise is well-deserved. For the purpose of this review, it bears mentioning that Robert Redford pulled this – the most taxing role of his entire career – off at the venerable age of 77. We’re talking Lifetime Achievement territory here, the point at which most A-Listers are happy to be working. But. man, oh, man, if Robert Redford doesn’t bring the noise. He’s acting, he’s directing, he’s doing both at a phenomenal clip. Meanwhile, he’s an outspoken critic, and pundit, and activist, as well as the lone oracle of Sundance. Robert Redford is the fighter of good fights, People‘s Sexiest Man Alive decades before People even had a Sexiest Man Alive. He’s at the center of everything that’s great about Old Hollywood, and he is the epitome of presence in J.C. Chandor’s gripping drama.

With only 12 minor tidbits of dialogue, and no one else to balance out the curve, Redford conveys every emotion nonverbally. Yet he does it all so subtly, it almost feels like being hypnotized. When Redford’s frustrated, you feel frustrated; when he’s trapped, you feel trapped; when he’s been out there on the ocean for eight days, you start to feel a twinge of nausea.

And then there is the palette.

Everything about All Is Lost is red, white and blue. The boat is red, white and blue. The maps are red, white and blue. Robert Redford is red, white and blue. Chandor is toiling in grand metaphors here, only he’s doing so with such panache he almost cannibalizes his own movie. I mean, who among us would really opt to be lost at sea – or in space, for that matter – for the better part of two hours? No one, really, if not for a belief that their journey might provide some reward. It’s the very reason people play video games or ride coasters – the rush without the risk.

They have yet to dream up the honor Robert Redford should be feted with, not only for his acting, but 50 years worth of humility. This despite a wealth and industry that encourage just the opposite. Oddly enough, a lot of the behaviors Redford rails against in real-life are buried deep beneath Chandor’s screenplay. Namely, how many times can one escape the oncoming storm, and what happens when one’s options are exhausted?

(All is Lost opens in New York and Los Angeles today, with a wide release scheduled for next Friday, October 25th.)