Review: All Is Lost

Last Updated on August 2, 2021

PLOT: A man (Robert Redford) finds himself lost at sea and struggles to survive against the elements.

REVIEW: ALL IS LOST is a fascinating contrast to director J.C Chandor’s last movie, MARGIN CALL. That was a film that was wholly dependent on its large cast and rapid fire dialogue to tell an extremely complicated story. ALL IS LOST is the complete opposite. The story is incredibly simple, with it being boiled down to the most basic premise you can imagine- a man tries to survive at sea. Everything is minimal, with the entire movie only featuring one actor (Redford) and almost no dialogue whatsoever.

While this might sound like a little self-consciously arty, Chandor defies this expectation as well. Everything feels raw and authentic, from the cinematography by Frank G. DeMarco (gorgeous, but in a non-stylized way), to the minimalist score by Edward Share and the Magnetic Zeros’ frontman Alexander Ebert, which is reminiscent of Philip Glass.

The most raw and authentic element of all is Redford, who, in ALL IS LOST, gets to deliver the kind of career-capping performance many of his contemporaries could only dream of. Credited only as “our man” nothing is revealed of the character’s life back home, save for a few lines of the opening voiceover, which is from a letter he writes back to his family (presumably) at his most desperate moment, apologizing for a life that often had no meaning other than gain. We never learn why this man is alone in the Indian ocean, completely cut off from everything and everyone.

Making Redford, at seventy-five, our hero is an interesting choice. Being such a beloved icon, it’s disconcerting and disturbing to watch Redford being battered so badly by the elements. However, it also illustrates his character’s resolve, in that he’s the ultimate definition of a self-sufficient man, who, early on, seems perfectly capable of handling whatever the sea throws his way.

Eventually, ALL IS LOST starts to feel like Redford’s battle with God, as he struggles desperately to survive as things just get worse and worse. Throughout the relatively brief 100 minute running time, he faces pretty much every ordeal you can think of, all while staying relatively stoic. In a way Redford feels like a metaphor for his entire generation, which once fought so hard for change but later settled down, and has now grown old. Having such an icon of the times play the part is especially meaningful.

Truly, ALL IS LOST is as close to a one-man-show as I’ve ever seen in cinema, even more so than something like BURIED, where at least the character had some kind of lifeline to the outside world (a cell phone). Here, Redford has absolutely nothing. It’s just him and the sea. If that sounds a little dull, don’t be dissuaded. ALL IS LOST is never ever boring. The stripped-down approach is a positive thing, and it’s definitely a movie that deserves to be seen on the big screen, just as much as something like GRAVITY. The amazing sound design and wide-screen photography really makes you feel like you’re at sea with Redford. His adventures in the ocean make for a thrilling piece of work, that’s all but guaranteed to land Redford an Oscar nomination. It’s the perfect conclusion to a brilliant career, and despite his age, Redford is as good, if not better, than he’s ever been.

All Is Lost



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About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.