Saturday, 25 January 2014

All Is Lost

Following the extremely wordy (and superb) Margin Call JC Chandor proves his versatility with a near-wordless film. All is Lost is astonishing in a number of aspects - the absence of dialogue, the boldness of the story's simplicity, and a muscular performance from septugenarian Robert Redford. Simply credited as 'Our Man', Robert Redford battles nature all alone as his yacht gets into serious trouble somewhere in the Indian Ocean. The situation grows increasingly worse and, as the film's spectacularly-bleak title suggests, things do not look good. Drawing on every ounce of his resourcefulness and seamanship, Our Man never gives up. I came to this with more than a few preconceived ideas. The title itself felt like a giveaway and almost prevented me from actually watching the film. (I couldn't help thinking I knew what was going to happen.) However, every single second of this made for thrilling viewing. The writer-director keeps things fantastically alive. Just when you think it can’t get any worse it does. Each and every one of the curve balls thrown at Our Man surprises and astounds. The scale of the spectacle is much grander than I’d expected too. The thrills and spills provided certainly allow this to be described as an ‘action film’. (It’s just one with brains.) Redford is phenomenal in the role. Internal performance has been key throughout his career. His star-making role of The Sundance Kid was a quiet one (in contrast to Newman's verbose Butch Cassidy) and this also brings to mind Jeremiah Johnson, in which he plays a man also very much alone, out in the wilds. His performance in All is Lost - following a long and lustrous career - is the zenith of that internalisation. There are no tricks or winks to emphasise the actor's presence. (And no talking to himself à la John McClane.) He's just phenomenally and authentically there, which makes for such engaging viewing. The role forces so many physical demands on Redford that, admittedly, there may not have been a huge amount of acting necessary. Single-handedly sailing the stricken vessel for real (and all the while soaked to the skin) clearly worked as a motivational tool for the actor. With the current state of cinema it's amazing that it actually got made. If this is a reaction against the infantilisation of Hollywood then long may this trend continue. 

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