Man, unmoored

Robert Redford is superb as a man lost at sea in a broken sailboat

All Is Lost
Pageant Theatre
Rated PG-13
Rated 4.0

Robert Redford’s superb performance, most of it wordless, is the dramatic heart and soul of J. C. Chandor’s astonishing little lost-at-sea epic.

But while Redford’s solitary mariner is the film’s lone character, All Is Lost is no one-man show. Instead, it’s a tour de force of filmmaking, an inspired collaboration of Redford and writer-director Chandor working in concert with a gifted crew—Frank G. DeMarco, director of photography; Peter Zuccarini, director of underwater photography; editor Pete Beaudreau; Alex Ebert, music; John P. Goldsmith, production designer; and Bob Munroe, visual-effects supervisor.

The story is simple enough: A man is struggling to survive in a sinking sailboat somewhere far from land in the Indian Ocean. The action is fast and furious throughout, but Chandor and company never lose sight of the story’s intertwined dramas—the physical battle against the elements and the more intimate one of a not-quite-lost soul facing the escalating evidence of his own insignificance.

The Redford character’s last testament, heard as a voiceover monologue at the outset and seen as a message-in-a-bottle set adrift near the end, does multifaceted duty as back-story, confession, apology, and revised, hard-earned credo. (By my lights, Redford’s ancient mariner is an angry, alienated misanthrope whose colossal and solitary misadventure brings him back to an unexpected connection with all things, all life.)

By the finish, the ocean, the weather, and all marine life have become characters in this tale as well. And there are villains (of a sort), too—a derelict freight container that crashes into the sailboat, and assorted ships too big to notice a lone man in a life raft.