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All is Lost - ** 1/2 (106 minutes)

 
Tuesday October 22, 2013
 
Writer/director J. C. Chandor's 2nd effort (the first was his 2011 critically acclaimed "Margin Call" which received an Academy Award Best Screenplay nomination) is simple in narration but harrowing in its execution.  It is man against the sea (Hemingway:  Are you listening?). 
 
With virtually no dialogue, for eight days, the director takes you into a world of survival as one man attempts to save his life after his 39-foot sailboat rams into a stray shipping container in the open Indian Ocean.  After patching the hole, his immediate sense of relief is replaced with crises after crisis that slowly leaves the lone sailor (identified as "Our Man" in the credits) frustrated and exhausted.  The only questions appear to be how and when the voyager's life will end. 
 
Despite his 77 years, the charismatic veteran actor, Robert Redford, looks buff and capable (the actor performed nearly all of his own stunts) and attempts to make all of this believable to a certain degree.  However, the film failed to emotionally involve and move me.  Ultimately,  the main problem I had were the many unanswered questions presented such as why would a lone elderly sailor attempt to sail alone in a relatively small vessel and risk his life in open waters?  By not providing any back story, the narrative suffered as a result, so that, in the end, I could have cared less if the distressed voyager lived or died-despite his numerous heroic attempts to survive.  And the ending may have some folks shaking their head in disbelief after spending nearly two hours with Our Man in the open seas.   
 
That being said there is much to be admired.  The director's dazzling technical achievements succeeded in creating a claustrophobic milieu (I did learn a bit of survival strategy that, hopefully, will never be used in this reviewer's future).  Also, an effective score by Alex Ebert nicely complements the visuals, while Frank G. DeMarco and Peter Zuccarini provided outstanding cinematography. 
 
"All is Lost" began a U.S. platform release beginning October 18.  It opens October 25 in D.C. and November 1 in Baltimore.
 
Our Man (Robert Redford) battles the sea in order to
 survive his sinking sailboat