All Is Lost
Movie Review #742
Directed by J.C. Chandor. Writer: J.C. Chandor. Produced by Neal Dodson, Anna Gerb, Justin Nappi, and Teddy Schwarzman for Before the Door Pictures, Washington Square Films, Sudden Storm Productions (Canada), and FilmNation Entertainment, presented by Black Bear Pictures and Treehouse Pictures. Starring Robert Redford as Our Man. Premierd at Cannes Film Festival on May 22, 2013. Distributed by Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions in Los Angeles, California and New York City, New York on October 18, 2013; and in limited release on October 25, 2013. Rated PG-13: brief strong language. Runs 106 minutes.
I’m sure you all can tell that movies are a real passion of mine. Movies are a very common conversation topic for me, and usually it’s someone else starting the conversation off. 90% of the time, they start off with one of the following phrases:
1) What are the best movies out on Netflix right now?
2) You should see [INSERT TITLE HERE].
3) Have you seen [INSERT TITLE HERE]?
That third one is where people my age often take me by surprise. For whatever reason, I’m prone to stereotype my peers (the high school demographic) as folks who watch mostly brand-new movies and, occasionally, something that was made between two and thirty years ago. So I was very surprised when one of my friends asked me if I’d seen “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest”. I was even more surprised when another one of my friends asked me if I’d seen “The Bicycle Thief” (and I’m pretty embarrassed that I still haven’t seen it).
Maybe the most interesting conversation I’ve had with someone about a classic movie was one a few weeks ago about “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”. We both agreed that the movie, and its finale, were phenomenal. We also got a little caught up on the running time. He thought it was three hours long. I couldn’t have imagined it being any longer than two hours, though with some pacing issues in William Goldman’s screenplay, I do remember, at the time, feeling like I was watching a two-and-a-half-hour movie.
“All Is Lost” stars Robert Redford as “Our Man,” struggling to survive on a ship during a heavy storm. But I wasn’t concerned with his perils. I was distracted by more interesting thoughts, i.e. Did Robert Redford play Butch or Sundance?, Wouldn’t it have been Sundance since Redford founded the Sundance Film Festival, and In that case, why does Butch sound like a name that would fit Robert Redford and why does Sundance sound like a name that would fit Paul Newman? This movie truly felt like it was three hours long, or even that it wasn’t going to end. It actually clocks in at 106 minutes, which is, in fact, shorter than “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”.
You could logically expect a fairly entertaining movie if it’s 106 minutes long. As of 2013, the average movie is precisely that long. But it’s those expectations of an engaging movie that make “All Is Lost” even more boring. Much of the reason for this is that the worst possible scenario keeps happening to Redford, and he always saves himself with the least of effort. It becomes pretty predictable that by the sixty-minute mark, if Redford’s character isn’t already dead, he’ll ultimately survive. Yet the character himself doesn’t seem to think that, because he’s actually in these perilous situations. I gotta tell you, Robert Redford gets very frustrated all throughout this movie, and it gets pretty boring when he fails to exhibit any other emotion.
There is but a modicum of character development here. It’s never exactly clear why Redford is risking his life on this boat instead of just staying in at the old folks’ home. We just know that he ends up “1700 nautical miles from the Sumatra straits.” He tries to deliver a monologue in the beginning to poignantly explain his situation, but it’s very vague, and if anything, it sounds like it was written by a man who wants to write an emotional screenplay, yet has no clue how to go about it. Oh, by the way, that monologue accounts for at least one-third of speaking in the entire movie. Redford is honest-to-God the only character, and any other line he does deliver is either in the act of talking to himself, or in the act of trying to communicate with people back on land over a broken radio signal.
By the standards of a movie like this, wherein he is leading a one-man show that features less than 200 spoken words, Redford is exceptional. (He even does his own stunts here.) But his performance isn’t nearly enough to save the film of its repetitive and weak display of peril after peril after peril. Perhaps the enduring Redford was chosen because of his decades of experience, but wouldn’t a younger actor make the story a bit more believable? I was thoroughly convinced that “Our Man” would surely drop dead of old age before the lightning struck him or the piranhas got to him.
“All Is Lost” is a mildly interesting movie. I mean that it doesn’t lose its audience immediately. It has some factor of curiosity and such when it opens. But it’s only so long before we can forgive the plot for its redundancies. Maybe the most miserable thing here is that the movie doesn’t know where it’s headed. If anything proves how randomized the Golden Globes were this past year, it’s that Alex Ebert won for his musical score over other deserving nominees. The score sounds like the typical, upbeat, sweeping John Williams score; the kind that would fit the image of a boat gliding gracefully and majestically across the ocean. Yet even John Williams would have composed something else in this context (and with the span of his career, he likely has in a similar oceanic movie). It’s highly confusing watching a movie about helplessness in which the music accentuates the beauty of the ocean.
“All Is Lost” may be a drama, may be a thriller. I’m really not sure, though I’ll go with drama, because the label fits Redford’s strong performance, and I, for one, was not thrilled for a second of this movie. This is a very boring version of last year’s “Gravity”, but if you want a good cry, I’d actually recommend “All Is Lost”. I did, in fact, yawn to the point of madly tearing up. ✴
– Alexander Diminiano