All is Lost: Gem of a Survival Drama With Robert Redford

All is Lost starring Robert Redford.
All isn’t lost.

Here’s a gem from 2013 written and directed by J. C. Chandor. Starring Robert Redford, it’s an introspective account of surviving against the odds.

All is Lost

Although a fictional survival drama film, it still appears to take a lot of inspiration from Steven Callahan’s story in Adrift: Seventy-Six Days Lost at Sea (1986). Although there’s no credit for this we can find.

The premise is rather simple here. An older man (Robert Redford) in retirement is out at sea enjoying a sailing trip.

Whilst he takes a nap, a steel container lost from a cargo ship hits his boat. It leaves a big old dent in the side of it. The boat starts taking on water.

Initially it doesn’t seem too big a deal and the man uses his brains to create a fix for the leak. However, a series of further issues makes his predicament worse.

Particularly when an enormous storm rolls in, which is where he’s (in rather terrifying fashion) jostled about inside his beloved boat.

It’s the point of the movie where the force of nature truly kicks in—a relaxing sailing trip turning into a personal nightmare.

And one of the things that impresses us about the film is Robert Redford was 77 at the time. With such a storied career, he didn’t need to do All is Lost.

Especially as it’s a role so physically demanding and dependent on his every action. Again, he barely says anything throughout the film.

Despite the gentleman’s every effort, intelligent decisions, and perseverance, nothing he does cuts him a break.

His situation just gets worse and worse. Batted about mercilessly as his ship rolls over, he’s then concussed, and awakes to find a sinking ship.

He abandons his boat for a small life raft, which provides one of the telling glances in his largely wordless performance.

A momentary, mournful look at the ship as it sinks. It’s a powerful expression—seemingly the memories of (presumably) his wife, who no longer appears to be with him.

And with that he’s lost alone at sea. So, the survival elements continue on. The hunt for food, the sunburn, the need for water.

With his terrible bad luck rumbling on, he eventually snaps and roars obscenities at the sky. But, there’s a reprieve not too far away.

And that’s All is Lost. Sometimes the most simple concepts can make for captivating entertainment and we sure did enjoy this one a great deal.

This is primarily thanks to Redford’s excellent performance. Although the production values are also excellent.

Other than the roars of the ocean, it’s a film often steeped in silence. But its sense of solitude is also enjoyable—one to embrace.

You find yourself taken along with it all, rather unexpectedly. There’s a natural flow to the disasters that unfold. It’s never hammy.

At only 105 minutes, director Chandor delivers a concise and intense film that deserves its cult status.

All is Lost’s Production

On a relatively small $8.5 million budget, the film went on to make $13.5 million worldwide. Not a massive hit, no, but word of mouth has since turned the film into a hidden gem.

It’s the type of film that’d be very impressive to see on a big cinema screen. But it doesn’t lose much of its impact with a TV/laptop viewing.

Despite All of Lost’s oceanic setting, a vast amount of filming took place in Baja Studios at Rosarito Beach in Mexico.

The crew only spent three days filming at sea. Which is a good idea, given the notorious nightmare it apparently is (a nod towards Jaws there).

After production, All is Lost had its first showing at Cannes Film Festival in May 2013. After the viewing, Redford received a standing ovation.

And that’s a pretty fitting tribute to a film we think makes the absolute most of its bare bones premise.

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