ALL IS LOST
US, 2013, 107 minutes, Colour.
Directed by J.C.Chandor.
Ail is Lost is a film of endurance, not just because of the experiences of the lone sailor on the Indian Ocean, but also of the psychological and emotional demands made on the audience.
The plot is quite straightforward, an older American man is sailing around the world alone, finds himself 1700 miles from Sumatra and discovers that a container, falling from a ship, has collided with his yacht and has put a hole in the side. Water is getting in.
While the sailor does attempt some kind of communication, he is really on his own and has to face the difficulties with his yacht, with his own fears, with his own competence, all by himself. The audience spends 100 minutes in his company, sharing in all his experiences, his hopes, his practical endeavours, his sightings of container ships passing and using flares but their not noticing him, a sense of final despair, that nothing can be done, even as sharks circle his boat.
This is not the kind of story that most audiences are interested in watching and they may have to force themselves to continue. Audiences who identify immediately with the sailor and with his experiences will find the film engrossing.
One of the advantages of the film is that the central character is played by Robert Redford, aged 76 at the time of filming. With his long career in front of the camera and behind it, it is satisfying to see him get this strong role at this stage of his life and career. He makes the most of it, convincing us that he is experiencing what is being shown on screen.
The screenplay and direction is by J.C.Chandor, who previously directed the Wall Street drama, Margin Call. This is quite a different film with different demands on the director, illustrating Chandor’s talent.
The film has its niche audience, but others will appreciate seeing this fine performance by Robert Redford.
1. A cinematic tour-de-force? The achievement of filming at sea, the experiences of the sea? Only one performer, Robert Redford, his reputation, age, energy, performance? The few words in the film? A little music? Editing, pace, special effects?
2. The importance of the sea, the Indian Ocean, 1700 miles from Sumatra? Moods, storms, calm? The isolation?
3. The opening, the sailor’s words, his message, apologies? And the later message in a bottle?
4. The previous eight days?
5. No explanations about the man, the boat’s name, Virginia Jean, indicating relationships?
6. The opening, the mystery of the object in the water, the discovery that it was a container? The hole in the yacht, its effect, the water coming in, the sailor and his use of the anchor, getting the container loose from the boat?
7. The days passing, the details of his management? His use of common sense, expertise? His age, energy, ability? Pumping the water? The goods that were damaged? Mixing the glue, repairing the hole? If only temporarily? The further difficulties, the storms, the growing amount of water, to ankles, to shins, to waist, to chest? The amount of food, water? Winching himself up the mast?
8. The survival it, the flares, the containers passing, their not seeing him or the flares? His seeing hundreds of containers on the ship?
9. The decision about the lifeboat, the water in the yacht, getting the supplies and putting them in the lifeboat? The amount of water, the food? The saltwater? The ability to desalinate? His attempted fishing, the undersea visions of the lifeboat, the fish swimming around? His few words, his desperate shouting of ‘fuck’? The message in the bottle?
10. His final desperation, setting the lifeboat alight, falling into the water, sinking? Seeing the fire from under the water? Somebody coming to rescue, the torch, his coming to the surface, the rescuing hand in close-up?
11. The demands in watching this film, concentration, identification with the sailor and his plight? Or observing it?