Review: All is Lost (A Man's Man Guide to Survival)

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Robert Redford may be unmoored in All is Lost, but you’ve never seen a sturdier body. Directed by Margin Call director J.C. Chandor, All Is Lost watches Redford’s nameless yacht captain problem solve his way through relentlessly harsh waters. He’s not the only body afloat—he incurs shipping containers and, at one point, a cargo ship—but like Pi before him, Redford’s drama is interior. Unlike Pi all the man eating wonders Redford faces don’t summon his awe, instead they remind him he’s a lone wolf and life demands fight.

Chadnor’s metaphor is as spare as The Old Man and the Sea, an unembellished sailing saga that views a man dwarfed by the elements as a reason to suppress drama—if you want to cry about the miracle of life, consider watching Gravity instead.

All is Lost may be closed to spectacles of God’s Splendor and it certainly isn’t inspiring you to Believe; instead it asks you to interpret and gives you room to insert yourself. Redford first demonstrates his maritime skills and then, in pieces, figures out how to map his way through the sea on an inflatable lifeboat. The nature of his cruise is never addressed, indeed he speaks less than 100 words the whole film. We have no backstory, no identity, no cause to follow any more specific than survival. This means we can’t cry for his plight (only ours) but we can marvel at his skill and confidence, which is what slowly slips away from him as the stakes grow and his odds dwindle. As an actor, Redford feels impenetrable (perhaps this has always been so) which may be why it’s easy to project yourself onto him, but the title, like the protagonist, stands like a dare to reverse fate.

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