Tuesday, October 29, 2013

All is Lost [2013]

MPAA (PG-13)  ChicagoTribune (3 Stars)  RE.com (4 Stars)  AVClub (A-)  Fr. Dennis (4+ Stars)

IMDb listing
ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review
RE.com (A. Alikan) review
AVClub (M. D'Angelo) review

All is Lost [2013] (written and directed by J.C. Chandor) is a remarkable one man story about a lone yachtsman (played in the film by Robert Redford) that the script simply labels "Our Man" who finds himself in crisis at sea (as the opening credits tell us) "1500 miles from the Sumatra Straits" (somewhere in the Indian Ocean).

What's he doing out there?  We don't know.  In fact, learn next to nothing about the yachtsman during the whole course of the film.  In an opening voice-over, we hear him writing out what sounds like a generic letter of apology.  To whom is he writing this letter?  To unnamed loved ones?  To humanity in general?  To God?  Again we don't know.

As we hear him compose his short letter, we're also treated to an utterly generic view: gentle waves of a body of water extending out to infinity banging on "something metal."  What's this "something metal" floating out in a all-but-infinite body of water in the middle of nowhere?  Well, as we hear the yachtsman compose his letter, we're slowly given an ever improving view.  And as he finishes his rather short and very generic letter, we realize that the metal object that we've been observing, floating out in that all-but-infinite sea, is but one of those giant metal container boxes that container ships now carry that had apparently fallen from its ship one day (when?  we have no idea) and had been floating randomly on the sea ever since.

A credit on the screen then tells us that the story began "8 days earlier ..."

On that day, we're shown that at some random time during the day, the yachtsman is awaken (from either sleeping or napping ... we don't know) by a crash caused by the above described random metal container floating out at sea.

The random metal container, apparently containing gym-shoes, not only crashes into the boat, but punctures a hole in it.  It's not a huge hole.  It's eminently fixable.  And we see the yachtsman come to patch it up reasonably well with epoxy and some fiber-glass cloth.  But it did shake him up as perhaps nothing previously did, and the hole caused by the random-metal container that had been floating out at sea did cause some damage.  The yacht had at least temporarily taken in (unexpectedly) a fair amount of water, the result being that most of the yachtsman's electronics onboard had been fried.

So though he the yachtsman manages to patch-up his boat, he's now "sailing blind" or more correctly sailing "deaf" and "mute."  He's unable to communicate a distress-call to anybody via the radio and he can't receive any important information (mostly about weather...) either.   So he soon finds himself, out in the middle of nowhere, hit by a couple of very nasty storms (that perhaps previously he would have been able to avoid). The rest of the film, of course, unspools from there ... and of course the story goes largely downhill.

The question that the viewer inevitably starts to ask is whether (or not) the anonymous yachtsman is going to make it out alive.  On one hand, this is a "Hollywood movie" with the lead role being played by one of Hollywood's most beloved / talented actors.  On the other hand, the film's title is "All is Lost" ... So the viewer soon realizes that the story could really go either way.

It's also obvious that the story is intended to be taken as being about more than just "a lone yachtsman out at sea in a boat."  I'd say that the story a remarkably insightful allegory about aging:  For much of our lives "we're fine."  And like the yachtsman in the film, we may take this for granted, blissfully napping in our boat, perhaps even "drifting through life" until ... BOOM something happens and we're "not fine."   And that something may not be fatal.  Like the yachtsman, we may be able to "patch it up."  But it MAY rattle us, and may have other consequences that (cumulatively) set-us down a course toward our end.  And in the course of our dying, we're repeatedly forced to work with less-and-less, until ...

Great, thought provoking story ... definitely deserving Oscar consideration for acting, direction and screenplay.

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