What can a movie be, exactly? A ridiculous question to most, no doubt. But let’s put ridiculousness aside for a moment and ponder it. When you think about it, a film can be anything you want it to be…obviously. Any film is subsequent to the viewer, his/her experiences, upbringing, and environment. It can be as simple or as complex as you, the viewer, see fit. Which, when you think about it, is quite possibly the most beautiful thing about cinema. Plainly put, each and every individual can draw an infinite amount of conclusions, reactions, and emotions from every film in existence. Why I bring this up has a lot to do with what I experienced watching “All is Lost” starring Robert Redford.
Imagine a movie without dialogue, without supporting characters, set within a sinking boat floating helplessly with the current, tussling with the waves on the Indian ocean and the wrath of Mother Nature. This vessel carries a man, who’s endlessly searching, hoping for rescue, food, and clean water. No history or preconceived notions to speak of, the conclusions made are left entirely to the viewer, derived from nothing but a series of visuals. One being fighting against nature with only the elements to survive.
It’s as simple as that. This is J. C. Chandor’s “All is Lost.” A film that doesn’t imply upon the viewer, but rather let’s the audience infer and compile their own deductions. Director Chandor merely acts as a transitioning agent, a depicter that forces those witnessing his work to morph and shift what he’s given you into a story that has become derivative of who and what you are. Essentially, Chandor and lead actor, well, the only performer Robert Redford, make you sort of an alchemist. Which results in one of the most immersive, unique, personal cinematic experiences you will ever have. Conversely, this makes the critics job all the more difficult, seeing as each viewer of “All is Lost” likely concludes and experiences something totally unknown to every other viewer.
Granted, these differences are minuscule and the central story remains essentially intact and universal for all, but the tiny differences are what truly allow “All is Lost” to become transcendent. It’s this social, nurturing, political characteristics. It’s like the difference between an explosion and an implosion. You wouldn’t be able to spot the subtle inconsistencies from a distance, but when you search past superficiality, there’s an entire world of underlying meanings, familiar traits, and contrast.
Cinematically, “All is Lost” is without question something to marvel. Had “Gravity” not come along and completely put each and every other cinematographers work to shame, “All is Lost” would easily have left audiences equally as breathless. The scenery, atmosphere, and overall tone of the film is sombrely beautiful. One can’t help but gaze in amazement at the wonders of our planet, sky, ocean, technology, and humanity. This is all thanks to director and writer J. C. Chandor. Additionally, Alex Ebert’s melancholic, epic score really completes Chandor’s visuals and masterful tale. It has already picked up the Golden Globe for best score.
More important than these facets is that Robert Redford hasn’t been this masterful in a good, long while. “All is Lost” sees a return to form for the illustrious actor and I wouldn’t deny that his performance here might be one of, if not the best of his career. Speaking no more than a few words throughout the film’s entirety, Redford still manages to control the screen with an unwavering intensity, heart-shattering vulnerability, and compassionate brilliance. The amount of sympathy one feels toward this wayward sailor knows no bounds. You feel as if you’re right there in the sinking ship with him as all hope and fight begins to drown.
“All is Lost” features one of the best musical accompaniments, performances, and overall experiences of the year. Making it easily one of the best films 2013 has to offer.