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London Film Festival 2013: All Is Lost - Review

All Is Lost

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 5 out of 5

ROBERT Redford delivers a tour-de-force in JC Chandor’s gripping All Is Lost, the type of film that offers up cinema at its most visceral and pure.

A survival drama that pits one man against the ocean, this is on a par with films like Gravity for the way it impresses as a piece of spectacle that never loses sight of the human emotions at its core. But what makes it all the more impressive is the performance that anchors it, a near wordless and extremely physical piece of acting that rewards screen veteran Redford with one of the best roles of his esteemed career.

The film hits the ground running. A lone sailor is awoken from his sleep somewhere in the Indian Ocean by a bang that turns out to be a shipping container rubbing against the side of his vessel. Unfortunately, the container has breached the side of his boat and water has started to pour in.

The man successfully patches this up but finds the damage is more widespread than at first thought: it has cut him off from the rest of the world as his electronics are largely fried.

What ensues is an increasingly desperate attempt to find land, or even rescue, that becomes increasingly hampered by the elements.

Chandor, whose first film was the astute and equally gripping financial drama Margin Call, here takes the audience on a similarly engrossing journey. And it’s not always a comfortable watch.

Just as the director slowly, and often mercilessly, strips hope away from its central character, so too does the audience begin to fear for the worst. For every minor success the man enjoys, there’s another hardship to set him back just around the corner. Little mistakes prove costly; minor victories are all too fleeting.

Redford, for his part, conveys this journey in brilliant fashion, especially given the near-wordless way in which he has to do so. This is extremely physical cinema that finds the actor having to convey a lot through very little, while being bashed repeatedly by rain, wind and waves. There are heart-stopping moments, throughout, all of which slowly wear the character down.

And while we never get to find out much about him, his journey is utterly involving. You’ll root for him even when the odds seem insurmountable.

Chandor, for his part, conveys the enormity of the task facing the man with considerable aplomb. His film always feels real and authentic, expertly capturing the sea at both its most beautiful and terrifying. There are times when it’s intimate and claustrophobic, during the moments below deck, but it can be epic as Redford battles the elements. You cannot underestimate the size of the technical achievement here, especially given the size of the budget when compared to bigger films like Gravity or Life of Pi.

What’s more, the film doesn’t loosen its grip on your attention until the very final reel, which offers a fitting conclusion to a memorable journey. It’s a stunning film that deserves to place both Redford and Chandor in awards contention.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 106mins
UK Release Date: tbc
London Film Festival Dates: October 12 (OWE2, 12.15pm), October 13 (OWE1, 5.30pm), October 14 (Haymarket, 6.30pm)