All Is Lost | Screen | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

All Is Lost

Robert Redford and a sailboat are the only stars of this lost-at-sea drama


If you thought Gravity was too talky and could have used more sharks, try J.C. Chandor's new drama. Like the space nail-biter, All Is Lost offers a similar minimal idea: a man stranded in an environment that cannot support human life, and with no help in sight. In this case, our unnamed protagonist is a solo sailor (Robert Redford), whose mid-ocean sailboat takes a hit from a stray shipping container and slowly begins to sink.

But where Gravity was relatively brisk, All Is Lost is slowly paced, and deeply concerned with process. Our Man is an experience sailor, and thus no matter how bad it gets — breached hull, storms, diminishing supplies — he steadily works to mitigate his circumstances. And he works in silence — fewer than a dozen words are uttered. Redford, of course, comes front-loaded as the stoic, capable outdoorsman. Thus, for those patient enough to sit through it, much of the film's tension comes from our expectations of Redford's character and the increasing futility of his actions.

At a certain point, lost at sea is akin to lost in space, and actions shift from the practical to the existential. The ending may frustrate some, but this is a film about the journey — not just where the disabled boat floats to, but where Our Man finds himself.