A brilliant one that almost got lost on the sea
The sea of cinema is huge. It’s also unfair. The movies that deserve eternal oblivion buried on the sea bottom end up sailing on forever, taking everyone aboard, seemingly unsinkable. And the true gems that you wish everyone would get the chance to see inevitably pass unnoticed, out of view behind the large waves from the large budgeted ferries.
All is Lost is one of those movies that got lost on the ocean. It was close that I hadn’t watched it either, since it didn’t get any wide cinema distribution in Sweden; it was screened at a film festival and that was it.
Even if I don’t agree with the decision not to show it to a large public, I can sort of understand it, from a commercial point of view. Basically it’s a movie about one man who is alone in his boat way out on the ocean. After an accident, his boat starts to take in water and without a functioning radio and navigation he suddenly finds himself fighting for his survival. And that’s the entire plot.
He’s not kidnapped by terrorists. He’s not facing morale issues about who is going to eat who on the ship when starvation sets in. Because there is no one else, just him. There’s no one else to talk to. He doesn’t hallucinate like James Franco in 127 Hours and he doesn’t talk to ball like Tom Hanks in Cast Away. He barely says a word throughout the entire film. The only sound you hear is from the ocean, the wind and the creeks from the boat.
When I describe it I realize that it sounds like an experiment more than like a movie – something that can amuse cinephiles, but hardly a film that could attract a large audience. So I can see why it went this way. But I think it’s a shame, because it’s a lot more accessible than it appears to be.
Somehow this works, against all odds. I was on my edge all the way through as I watched Robert Redford heroically fighting against the elements, determined to stay alive and stay calm, no matter what. It’s a lot more exciting than you would think. With only one actor in it, the film stands and falls with his performance. And he absolutely nails it – physically as well as emotionally. I was drawn into the film and the elements and I almost expected to fall into the film, like Eustace, Edmund and Lucy fell into the picture in the beginning of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. And that is an evidence of just how good this film is because I watched it under the worst circumstances possible, as I was travelling to Cambodia earlier this year.
It takes quite a remarkable movie to make such an impact, seen as on-board entertainment on a screen smaller than a laptop. I’m glad I caught it before it was washed away in the tide of time.
All is Lost (J.C. Chandor, US 2013) My rating: 4,5/5