All Is Lost (PG-13)

Action/Adventure 100 October 25, 2013
By Alan Scherstuhl
The title All Is Lost promises despair, especially with Robert Redford looking so stolid and weathered and still-got-it golden on the poster. Could this near-silent, you-are-there survival story be another of Redford's yawps of boomer gloom? Fortunately, this intimate, somewhat terrifying thriller is much better than that, something no Redford movie has been in the lifetime of many filmgoers: a genuine nail-biter, scrupulously made and fully involving, elemental in its simplicity. Redford stars with just a yacht, a lifeboat, a shipping crate, a million miles of pitiless ocean, and what might be the movies' most indefatigable hairpiece. Outside a snatch of voiceover in the opening seconds, he speaks only four or so times the whole film. For once, he's not the suave master of everything around him—he's just a guy, trying not to die. A fabulously wealthy and capable guy, of course. In the first moments, Redford's character awakens on his fancypants boat to discover that even the insulated rich sometimes take a hit from globalization-- in the form of one of those one-size-fits-all shipping crates, a floating boxcar that has spilled off a trawler and cracked Redford's yacht. His radio is fried, the boat is sinking, the nearest shipping lanes are hundreds of miles away. Director J.C. Chandor shrewdly handles the complex cause-and-effect of maritime life: It's always clear what each rope Redford handles is attached to, and there's wonderful tension in moments when the star is clambering from bow to stern; those surfaces are slick, those waves unpredictable, that ocean sickeningly dark. The simplest tasks prove suspenseful, and the difficult ones-- shimmying up the mast, or fishing in shark-infested waters-- are hold-your-breath stuff.
J.C. Chandor Robert Redford J.C. Chandor Neal Dodson, Anna Gerb, Justin Nappi, Teddy Schwarzman Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions

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