Academy Award Winner Robert Redford is a legendary icon with over a half century in the film industry. The actor/director has truly mastered the art of cinema. In 2013, during the twilight of his career, Redford returns with another Oscar-level performance in J.C. Chandor's All Is Lost. With last year's release, Life of Pi, receiving a copious number of nominations throughout the awards season extravaganza, an alone-at-sea survival tale feels all too familiar. However, using merely a fraction of Ang Lee's Oscar-Winning budget (an estimated $9 million vs $120 million), Redford and Chandor combine to deliver a superior survival-film adventure.
In the midst of an independent journey through the Indian Ocean, a man (Redford) is awoken by the onslaught of water in the cabin of his sail boat. He quickly investigates the issue only to discover that his vessel has struck a huge metal shipping container floating aimlessly in the sea. The surging water has destroyed his radio equipment and, therefore, the lone resourceful sailor is forced to survive trying ordeals as he faces his own mortality.
Being the forefather of the Sundance Film Festival and an advocate of insightful small-budget independent cinema, it's only fitting that Robert Redford's acting career returns to insurmountable heights on the backbone of a feature such as this. J.C. Chandor's All Is Lost is a heart-pounding and agonizing adventure into the human spirit's will to survive. With almost as little dialogue as recent Best Picture Winner and "silent film" The Artist, there's a great bit of irony in describing Chandor's transcending work as action-packed. Yet, Redford's one-man show (he's the only actor in the movie) and speechless approach somehow elevate the picture's situational intensity. Crafted by what the director has admitted was only a 31-page script, All Is Lost is a straightforward and forthright example of exceptional artistry.
For all of its intensity and dramatics, Redford's latest film offers a meager amount of entertainment value. A far cry from the typical big studio release, All Is Lost requires a level of cerebral devotion and emotional investment. Both of which build a formidable foundation for the movie to prosper. Although the feature boasts an indisputable appeal to the more human elements of life, All Is Lost is by no means a viewing pleasure for all occasions. However, if the mood is suitable and understood, J.C. Chandor's sophomore effort is an emotionally undulating ride.
The "survival tale" has become a recent norm throughout Hollywood. As the box-office smash Gravity, which is mesmerizing in its own right, is sure to attract audiences throughout the world with flashy special effects and a pair of mega-stars in its leading roles, it's easy to overlook a superb film such as All Is Lost. Robert Redford's gritty Oscar-caliber performance and J.C. Chandor's direction are both stellar and worthy of recognition. My only hope is that the rest of the world will take notice.