REVIEW: All is Lost

A synopsis of All is Lost seems like a done before snooze fest: a nameless but resourceful sailor wakes up to his boat taking water and must weather the sea to survive.

This story has been told since ancient times and most iterations are very shallow (no pun intended). But the archetypal tale is stripped to its barest most modern form in All is Lost, with minimal dialogue, minimal music, and yeah, minimal everything else. (Why’d I make a list for that?) It ends up being a surprisingly unique piece of cinema that I am delighted to have seen.

The story plays with expectations so well. Just when I thought something would happen BOOM SKYE! That uncertainty is super fun in a very lizard brain kinda way and also sucked me into the realism of what was happening. It makes the lead character’s plight easy to be sympathetic to and I felt like I was living each grueling second with him.

Speaking of, Robert Redford basically teaches a 400-level acting class in this flick by creating an oddly specific person without having diddly squat to play off of.

I mean, even the loneliest of characters usually have some sort of foil or antagonist that helps build their personality. CGI actors get little balls. Tom Hanks had Wilson. But Redford is TRULY alone in All is Lost and compelled me regardless. It’s a brave move and one you really have to trust yourself to pull off. The only other movie I can think of that has this level of faith in its lead is 127 Hours, and y’all, director Danny Boyle’s editing style is a character in itself.

A technical beast on top of all this, my mouth fell agape while watching the transitions above and below water. The camera work is breathtaking, be it in a wide that emphasizes how solitary life in the ocean is, or a close up that captures Redford’s waterfall of emotion.

There’s one scene in particular (if you’ve seen the movie you know the one I’m talking about) were the shot composition was so tense it had me screaming out loud. I wish I had seen it in the theater, but hey, at least at home nobody will shh me.

Now, I don’t want to give the impression that it’s the best thing I’ve ever seen. Some of the story beats can be found in every single stranded-at-sea flick ever made, the symbolism is nice but also a bit cheesy/predictable, and although I appreciated the nature of a silent unknown lead, I still desperately wanted to know the character on a more personable level.

Regardless, All is Lost is an enjoyable experience that does enough different to merit its own existence.