It has taken longer than might have been expected for the phenomenal success of The Artist (both commercial and artistic) to inspire a similarly bold deviation from the norm in mainstream cinema.
There is no dialogue in All Is Lost, though it is not a silent movie, for incidental sounds and background noises are essential components of the drama.
A retired (?), unattached adventurer (Robert Redford) has been solo-sailing the seas of the eastern tropics. He is woken one morning by water rushing into the cabin. On deck, he discovers that a red container, adrift in the ocean (itself a dismal comment on the consequences of worldwide materialism), has gorged a hole in the side of his yacht.
Makeshift repairs appear to solve the problem, but a frightening storm only makes matters worse for the intrepid sailor.
The obvious reference is Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea, but director JC Chandor goes beyond a simple observation of Man’s determination in his eternal struggle against the odds, to focus on his character’s inventiveness and resourcefulness in the face of overwhelming adversity (eg, the yachtsman’s brilliant pragmatism in procuring water to drink).
Advances in technology also mean that Redford’s predicament is made more convincing by the capabilities of the modern camera and wizardry of the editing suite.
The green-screen (indeed, if there is one) remains invisible, the angles are varied and always significant (one, of Redford after jimmying himself to the top of the mast, is a beauty), and the underwater shots are as beautiful as they are frightening – in short, there is never any sense that just ten metres away is a tooled-up crew with endless wires and lights and boom etc.
Denying the years, Redford produces a fantastic performance, perfectly expressing the physical and mental strain that would be the result of such an ordeal – you’re really with him when he desperately lights that flare to attract a passing freighter.
It is a bit like Gravity, only set in the Indian Ocean – exhausting, but in a good way.
~ John Campbell