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Movies featuring a character being lost at sea are nothing particularly new in Hollywood. Examples range from Alfred Hitchcock’s Lifeboat, to 2003’s Open Water, to last year’s Oscar winning Life of Pi. All is Lost, written and directed by J.C. Chandor, follows in this tradition, placing Robert Redford in the midst of a perilous ocean. It doesn’t reinvent the genre, by any means, but taut direction and a commanding performance from Redford make this an adventure worth seeing.

Redford stars as an unnamed character, sailing somewhere in the Indian Ocean. One morning, he awakens to discover that his ship has collided with an abandoned shipping container, placing a large hole in the side of his boat. He is able to adequately repair the damage, until a large storm rolls in, leaving his vessel in ruins. Now, the man must use his intellect and his skills of survival if he hopes to make it to safety.

One of the most incredible aspects of the film is that Robert Redford’s character is the only character throughout the entire film. Starring in a movie without any support from other actors must have been a pretty daunting task to accept, but Redford completely owns it. With most of the movie remaining dialogue free, Redford must build his character through his actions and facial expressions. By the end of the film, without knowing virtually anything about who this character actually is, audiences will be completely devoted to rooting for his survival.

It’s fascinating to watch a film that is daring enough to have only one character and the fact that there is no backstory given to this character only makes it more impressive. A lesser writer would have felt the need to provide exposition by having the character engage in conversation with himself, but there is none of that here. These were gutsy choices by Chandor, but they pay off. The film’s final script was only thirty two pages long and it is easy to see why.

Viewers who lack patience should look elsewhere. This is an extremely slow movie, so it wouldn’t be surprising if some people are unable to make it through the whole movie without becoming bored. Aside from the slow pacing, Chandor does a great job in the director’s chair, building the intensity of certain scenes to incredible levels. The story is fairly simple, but Chandor makes up for this with some truly suspenseful scenes. But, again, without Redford’s performance, all of it would have been for nothing.

It certainly isn’t breaking any new ground, but All is Lost is a solid lost-at-sea adventure. With the help of some incredible sound design, Chandor dazzles in just his second feature film. Robert Redford has been a screen icon for decades and he continues that here, with his greatest performance in ages. The two of them work very well together, creating a realistic portrayal of a man who has lost a lot nearly everything. But, if he hopes to survive, he will need to hold onto his will to live.

All is Lost receives 3/4

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