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ALL IS LOST (review)

all_is_lostALL IS LOST
Written and Directed by J.C. Chandor
Starring Robert Redford

Our Man: This is the Virginia Jean with an SOS call, over.

After impressing both critics and audiences in 2011 with his financial crisis drama, MARGIN CALL, writer-director J.C. Chandor returns with his second feature, ALL IS LOST. Chandor can now breathe easy as he avoids the dreaded sophomore slump; ALL IS LOST is actually just as good, if not even better, than his debut.

The film stars Robert Redford (and only Robert Redford), in one of his greatest performances to date, as Our Man. He awakens one night on his solo yachting trip to find a large leaking hole in the side of his ship. Upon exiting the cabin to investigate the hole, Our Man sees that a large Chinese shipping container, filled with childrens’ shoes (make of that what you will), has collided with his boat, the Virginia Jean. Our Man is clearly a seasoned yachtsman, as he quickly attempts to repair the hole in his ship. He succeeds at first, but knows that an impending storm will bring him great trouble.

Redford is absolutely fantastic in this film. It has been years since he has been given material this good, and it comes as an immensely pleasant and welcome surprise. Besides an opening voice over and a couple of SOS distress calls, Redford says almost nothing throughout the film. This shows his great talent, as he carries the film with his emotions alone. Chandor does not show us the Robert Redford we have come to love in films such as THE STING and ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN; instead, he gives us Redford as he truly is right now – an experienced, well-seasoned man of 77 years. There is no makeup to mask his age; he is just a regular man. Then again, he is Robert Redford after all, and you’d never guess he was a day over 70.


ALL IS LOST also boasts fantastic visual effects. This provides an interesting foil to current audience favourite, GRAVITY, a film which puts visuals at the forefront, leaving character behind. ALL IS LOST does have great effects, but it is obvious that Chandor wants Redford’s character to be front and center, letting the visuals simply support him. The special effects in the film are so smooth that it is hard to discern what is and what isn’t shot on actual water. Alexander Ebert’s score makes the experience even more riveting. The score is essentially a character in the film but it is never utilized to make ALL IS LOST feel like an action movie, as Chandor only employs Ebert’s score when absolutely necessary. In fact, pivotal, tense scenes concerning Our Man’s survival are often left entirely silent.

After two extremely satisfying films, it is obvious that J.C. Chandor has a bright future in cinema. His two films, though both fantastic, are extremely different. While MARGIN CALL was an ensemble piece that garnered an Oscar nomination in writing for its clever dialogue, ALL IS LOST stars just one man and features almost no dialogue at all. It is an extremely well crafted piece of cinema, and serves as a wonderful showcase for Redford. The film treats its character as a real person, not an actor on spectacle for an audience, making it both serious and thrilling simultaneously. Also worth noting: Redford never once converses with a volleyball here.


Your turn!

How many sheep would you give All Is Lost?



  1. Great review, Matt! I agree with you fully about all the points you raise. The visual effects were subtle and seamless; the score was sparse but perfect when utilized; and Redford was so strong as a man determined to press on no matter how much the sea tried to beat him down. Chandor is clearly a great talent with a bright future ahead of him.

    I wonder though, what do you think it all means? Is it just simply an old man and the sea story or is it an allegory for something more? I can’t imagine there isn’t any deeper meaning behind the film. That said, could it really be as simple as a metaphor for life itself and the perseverance of the human spirit? If you remain calm and methodical about every challenge life throws at you, then you will live to see another day?

  2. We went and saw this yesterday. What a movie! Magnificent. Perfect. Amazing photography. Riveting, and basically no dialogue. An Oscar for Redford I hope. I’ve sailed (not open sea) and very authentic. Go see the movie, do yourself the favor. No stuntmen either. The first 2 minutes brought out a lot of emotions in the audience, but I won’t give it away.

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