Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Film Review: All Is Lost (2013)

All Is Lost

“I'm sorry. I know that means little at this point, but I am. I tried. I think you would all agree that I tried. To be true, to be strong, to be kind, to love, to be right, but I wasn't.  All is Lost.”

This is the extent of the dialogue spoken by Robert Redford in J.C Chandor’s nautical nightmare – and it is all uttered as a voice-over monologue before we even see the protagonist’s face.  The rest of the film is virtually silent except for the sound of the sea (which has never sounded so threatening onscreen) and the beautiful score by Alexander Ebert.

All Is Lost is a feature-length meditation on one man’s ability to overcome the relentless onslaught of his environment.  A nameless man (Redford) awakens on his yacht in the middle of the Indian Ocean to find that it has crashed into a stray shipping container.  Although mild frustration washes over his face, he is well prepared for any eventuality so diligently begins to repair the damage and bail out the water.  Yet this small damage is enough of a hindrance to distract him from the large storm that is heading his way.

The film then documents all of the different problems that he must overcome through weather damage, before finally deciding that his only chance is to sail towards a nearby commercial shipping lane and try to get help from passing cargo ships.

The film is an even more sparse Cast Away, but without all of the product placement and faux-existentialism.  The stripping away of all dialogue and backstory from a typical sea-disaster movie gives the enigma of the man and his boat an urgency that would be entirely lost if we knew where he from or why he was on his own.

As a parable, the film appears to be a damning criticism of global capitalism:  A man on his yacht, a symbol of success and greed, suffers a crash (get it?) and asks for help from other industrial giants but cannot get their attention so ultimately begins to drown.  Is there a more succinct visual metaphor for the perils of ruthless and competitive capitalism?

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