‘All Is Lost’ is the type of movie that couldn’t exist without ‘Gravity’ as its predecessor. ‘Gravity’ performed a masterful magic trick - while mesmerising its audience with brilliant cinematic style, convincing some that it was actually filmed in space, it produced a singled-handed film. ‘All Is Lost’ hopes to replicate the same success, but without all the CG trickery and a more lasting emotional response.
When a lone sailor (Robert Redford) on his 39-foot yacht crashes into a shipping container in the middle of the Indian Ocean, breaching its hull, he expertly and resourcefully repairs the damage. But this is only the beginning. Now facing a monstrous storm, our man barely survives the night, leaving him with a boat far beyond repair and with no other option but to weather the open seas in a life raft with dwindling hope for rescue.
Very few clues are given as to the man's character and backstory. The few that do exist are subtle and far between at best, but they’re there - a nod to the fact that no matter who we are or where we came from or what has led us to this moment, when survival, pure unadulterated survival, is all you have, instinct kicks in and our desires and goals become primitive and common, regardless of wealth or family.
Barely a word is spoken throughout its 106 minutes, save for a mayday call and a lone frustrated expletive. Instead, our character’s vast solitude in a relatable location is its key to viewer connection. There are no overwrought cries of pain, abandonment or injury. No exaggerated gasps of shock or disbelief. And definitely no plunges of mental stability due to loneliness or dehydration. From the get-go, Redford's character is an established and experienced yachtsman, and therefore his performance that follows is subtle and calculated, making it all the more compelling. Director J.C. Chandor (‘Margin Call’) defies conventional Hollywood storytelling, because there is no story. There is no dialogue. It’s just a man, on a boat, trying to stay alive. And it's fantastic cinema.