Label: eOne / Region: A / Released: February 11, 2014
Genre: Drama / Survival
Synopsis: A sailor attempts to stay alive and reach a shipping zone after his boat is punctured by a floating container.
Special Features: Audio commentary with writer-director J.C. Chandor and producers Neal Dodson & Anna Gerb / 6 Making-of featurettes: “The Story” + The Filmmaler: JC Chandor” + “The Actor: Robert Redford” + “The Sound of All Is Lost” + “Big Film, Small Film” + “Preparing the Storm” / Bonus DVD Copy.
J.C. Chandor’s lone-man-on-the-sea film is an unpretentious survival tale of a confident, stoic, practical minded man (Robert Redford) who does everything right to avoid hunger, wayward drift, and death, but is repeatedly foiled by Mother Nature at every turn. The sailor’s bad string of luck begins when he wakes up to the sounds of water sloshing into the cabin area after a midnight collision with a shipping container (possibly from a tumble from a ship vessel, or a leftover from the brutal tsunami which pounded the Japanese coast in 2011).
Because All Is Lost isn’t a showy film, it has to be subversive in grabbing the audience. Chandor uses the sailor’s reactions to situations of initially variable danger to build the central character, and Redford – who utters just a few words outside of the opening narration – pulls off what seems like an easy role, but it’s the restraint which makes the character so compelling, and acts as a counterbalance to the storm systems that literally tear apart the sailor’s safe zone.
77 year old Redford is wholly convincing as an independent man doing something routine – this is just another epic sea voyage solo for the expert seaman – and Chandor beautifully combines subtle digital effects with a wealth of practical effects. There’s barely any score – most Alex Ebert’s music is organically blended with sound design – and it’s a heck of an accomplishment in pulling off a 106 mins. drama with just a man struggling to survive on the ocean, hoping to catch the attention of passing freighters in a well-traveled shipping zone.
Dangers are telegraphed in simple gestures and visuals – after being pelted by nasty weather, the audience becomes a bit more trained in recognizing a far off storm cloud is a disaster just minutes away – and when the tempestuous violence hits, its destruction is often total. However one regards the ending – it’s structured to favour more than one view – All is Lost is a simple, neat little film boasting a subtle underrated performance, and expert direction.
eOne’s Blu-ray sports a commentary and featurettes, the sound design is detailed but never overbearing, and the HD transfer is fine, although there’s some visible compression whenever there’s a fadeout.
© 2014 Mark R. Hasan
Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review