All is Lost shouldn't have worked as a film. All is Lost doesn't have complex story, no back story for our lone character, no limited dialogue, no interaction with any other characters, and without any battles or explosions in the film yet the film does work. All is Lost has nothing except a lone man trying to survive being stranded alone in the vast Indian Ocean. Our man doesn't have a volleyball named Wilson, a Tiger, or fellow astronaut for companionship. All our man has is himself, and his will to survive until all is lost, and yet All is Lost works simply because of veteran actor Robert Redford who gives a magnificent performance in his best film, and acting performance in over a decade.
"I'm sorry. I know that means little at this point, but I am. I tried. I think you would all agree that I tried. To be true, to be strong, to be kind, to love, to be right, but I wasn't."
That is how All is Lost opens with part of the longest dialogue in the film when a moving voice over by an unknown man begins. The man who sounds like he has been through an ordeal, and has fought hard to survive has finally given up, and is saying goodbye, and then the film cuts to eight days earlier where we see a long man sleeping peacefully in a cabin of his boat the Virginia Jean. The man is awoken when a load crash is heard and water begins to pour into the cabin. Rushing out onto the deck he finds that a floating shipping container has crashed into his boat gashing a whole into the side of the boat. Our man quickly works to get the shipping container dislodged from the boat as the cabin is continued to be flooded with water. We watch as the man efficiently gets the container dislodged, repairs the side of the boat, and pumps the water out of the cabin.
Unfortunately for our men the electronics on the Virginia Jean are now not working or broken, and his dying radios SOS cry for help aren't heard leaving the man stranded and alone. We watch the triumphs, and failures as the man fights for survival alone on the Indian Ocean. We see all this without only about three words of dialogue, which makes it even more emotional when our man realizes he made a simple yet costly mistake yelling a four letter word into the sky. I don't think I've heard a cursed word used so effectively or with such emotion before in a film. The man's lone journey culminates in a beautiful and moving climax that is inconclusive leaving us to form our own opinion. I did struggled with giving away the ending, but just want to say that the conclusion or lack thereof gives deeper meaning to the opening dialogue as we all try to be true to ourselves and others, to love unconditionally, and to be kind yet have failed in some degree. I know I have failed many times in my life yet it is the journey, and decisions that define us as well desire to let the people we know and love that we did our best in life.
Throughout Robert Redford's over five decade acting career the seventy seven year old Redford has given us many memorable and great acting performances Johnny Hooker in The Sting, The Sundance Kid in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Roy Hobbs in The Natural, Bob Woodward in All the President's Men, and Nathan D. Muir in Spy Game, with a future performance in the upcoming Captain America: The Winter Soldier yet his role in All is Lost is different, and more complex than his other roles as the experienced actor has no other actors rely on, and very little dialogue. Instead Redford must act only with his eyes, facial expressions and body language, and Redford achieves that in All is Lost. Redford as lost man wonderfully displays the emotions of a lost man at sea from his frustration, hopefulness/hopelessness, triumphs, and acceptance. I believe few actors could as an effective performance as Robert Redford does with so little to work with.
All is Lost isn't for everyone, and some might not appreciate what they are viewing, but All is Lost shouldn't be missed. Not director J. C. Chandor simple yet meaningful journey of survival, not the beautiful cinematography, Not the sedated yet compelling score, and certainly not Robert Redford's silent yet compelling performance that should at very least garner him an Oscar nomination.