All is Lost (London Film Festival 2013)
It was at least an hour into All is Lost when I noticed the inordinate amount of water I’d been drinking; I could see it in the other cinemagoers, sitting restlessly, sipping from their bottles. By this point, barely a word had passed through the tired lips of Robert Redford, the film’s lonesome figure.
A brief voiceover introduces All is Lost, with the rest void of dialogue. Redford, aged 77 (I still find this hard to believe), mans a sinking ship while grappling for survival; a guidebook, a map, some strange biscuits, anything that might help.
It’s likely Redford took to the sea to escape the stresses of modern life, hide from demons, or rest in solitude. However, that’s all speculation, as it’s never explained. In isolation, without any signs of help beyond his watery surroundings, his sole occupation is staying afloat – all while feeding himself scraps and fending off the creatures that lie beneath the surface.
JC Chandor sticks to a degree of realism with his direction that, although encompasses CGI, pulled me in with a claustrophobia that’s redolent of Polanski’s Knife in the Water. I hate to make the obvious comparison, but All is Lost makes a case that Life of Pi should have scrapped all dialogue and voiceovers.
It’s a cliche that actors walk into an audition with a Shakespeare monologue. Redford undertakes the harder task of captivating an audience through winces and irritated expressions. The viewer is made aware of his rations and number of flares; as they slowly dwindle, the emerging mood turns existential with an elderly man staring out at sea waiting to die.
All is Lost is part of the London Film Festival’s “Thrill” strand. Screening information can be found here.
United States of America
106 mins approx