All Is Lost - or - another reason to stay out of the water

Sorry for the late blog tonight. I decided to watch All Is Lost after dinner, and now I'm having a hard time thinking about what is worth writing about after watching a movie so harrowing and bleak. I thought the movie was quite excellent. It's the story of a man alone in the Indian Ocean that has everything that can possibly go wrong, go wrong. That's as much as I will say about the plot specifics. All is Lost is a gorgeously shot, well paced story that is told well.

Watching Redford deal with disaster after disaster was exhausting. For a role that did not require a single line of line of spoken dialogue, I thought his performance was captivating. It really felt like he was getting beat up in the filming of the movie. I tip my hat to any man who can pull off a role like this at 77. There's a physicality that he brings to the role that you feel. I don't know much about the making of the film but it doesn't seem like he would do a take and then head off to his trailer for some R&R. By the end of the movie you can see on Redford's face that he had been through some rough shit.

While I was watching this I couldn't help but wonder how the film was shot, logistically I mean. I imagine a lot of the shots were taken at sea, and the storm scenes where shot using a combination of green screen and a giant tide pool? There are a couple of great moments in the film where the camera work is used to catch viewers off guard. It must have been difficult to get a lot of the in boat shots, there was not a lot of real estate inside the boat to work with. At first blush it would seem like this wouldn't be a movie you'd have to see in theaters, but I imagine having a giant screen to work with would help show the enormity of Redford's isolation to great effect. The imagery of the film creates an atmosphere of intense solitude and hopelessness. It becomes a second character for Redford to play off of. 

Getting stuck out in the middle of the Ocean is high up on the list of worst case scenarios. I have absolutely no idea what would compel a person to sail around the world alone. This romantic notion of a man finding himself in remote seas is not for me. Leave that kind of nonsense to real men like Hemingway, I'm perfectly happy here on land, with things like internet and easily accessible drinking water. I found this movie to be more terrifying than any mainstream horror film to come out in recent years. There were even those great moments, where I found myself saying things out loud like, "don't go in there!" or the old stand by, "oh shit!" Now I'm just battening down the hatches for some stormy dreams in my future.

In a lot of ways this did not feel like a modern American film, because the main emotion that it inspires is despair. The movie weighs heavy on the psyche, which is something you just don't get in a lot of American made movies. I give a lot of credit to J.C. Chandor for making a film that does not pander to a potential audience at all. It takes a lot of guts to write and film a movie where there is only one character (even if that character is being played by a legend), very little dialogue, and for intents and purposes, one setting. I see Chandor's next film has Jessica Chastain, Oscar Isaac and Albert Brooks in the starring roles, I can't wait to see what he is able to do with that much talent to work with.

Watching the movie was worth it though. Just be prepared to feel emotionally drained afterwards. If you are looking for a good movie to watch on a random weekday night I highly recommend this. You know those days when you are browsing your Netflix and Amazon Instant, bemoaning the sorry state of modern cinema? Well, here is an example of an incredibly well made movie that tells the story it wants to tell in less than two hours. That's less time than it would take you to watch those episodes of the West Wing that you've seen before. This movie is out for rent on just about every online movie renting platform: iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, etc. I give it the old thumbs up. Who knew that making a great film required only a single actor, a great premise, and a whole lot of water?