All Is Lost (2013)

All Is Lost (2013)

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A portent of doom. And a storm.
A portent of doom. And a storm.

Twitter Plot Summary: Our Man is out at sea by his lonesome. His will to live is tested by the elements as one disaster after another befalls him.

Five Point Summary:

1. Shipping container. Full of shoes.
2. Storm force one.
3. Adrift.
4. A well-earned expletive.
5. One final roll of the dice.

Adrift, alone at sea on his yacht, Our Man wakes to find a shipping container has knocked a hole in the hull and sea water is sloshing into the cabin. What follows is one mishap after another, a series of events designed to test even the most hardy of souls.

All Is Lost is an aberration, a call-back to the golden era of silent movies where actions spoke louder than words. Other than about 5 lines of dialogue and a well used F-bomb, Redford barely says a word. This lack of dialogue puts everything on the not inconsiderable shoulders of Redford, and he carries it admirably. The amount of nuance he puts into the smallest of things is incredible, the act of just staring into the distance at an oncoming storm tells you everything you need to know about his thoughts, feelings and fears. It’s also worth noting that this is only the second feature length effort from director JC Chandor, who also wrote the script. This is astounding in itself, for the depth of the story alone, let alone the skills required to direct the thing and keep it interesting.

He had an unspeakable bond with his yacht. He called her Elsie.
He had an unspeakable bond with his yacht. He called her Elsie.

Produced from a 31 page script, other than a couple of brief moments of repetitiveness, where one event reoccurs under ever so slightly different circumstances, it never feels padded out or needlessly expanded on. We are given scant details about Our Man (for he has no given name) other than that he is sailing alone somewhere in the Indian Ocean. At times it looks like we might get to see into his life, of his existence away from the waves, but other than the opening monologue and a few teasing scenes this aspect of his existence is entirely ignored. This is one instance where less is definitely more, creating questions for the audience that don’t necessarily need an answer. Instead the focus is entirely on his will to survive, to battle the odds mounting against him. And at times those odds seem somewhat fantastical, as if some unseen force is deliberately testing this 77 year old man just to see what he will do. The answer is of course to fight for his life. No matter what is thrown at him, Our Man fights back for all he’s worth, giving us a compelling insight into the human desire for self preservation. It’s a spiritual journey as much as it is a physical one. Clearly Our Man has some issues to resolve and that is the whole purpose of his trip.

To sum up, All Is Lost is powerful, moving, and an insight into the thing inside us that motivate us to survive, to progress, to never give up. Its minimalist approach helps draw focus to the real meat of the story, and bearing in mind how little there is to the script, the aforementioned 31 pages, it could have easily become a tedious, drawn out affair. Thankfully it isn’t, and is fully deserving of the accolades heading its way.

Score: 5/5

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