Film review: Robert Redford reclaims his acting cred on the open sea

  • 0 COMMENTS
Robert Redford gives a triumphant performance as a man adrift on the ocean, fighting for survival (and an Oscar) in All is Lost. Robert Redford gives a triumphant performance as a man adrift on the ocean, fighting for survival (and an Oscar) in All is Lost.

Robert Redford has long been one of our greatest movie stars. He’s never been one of our greatest actors. For every compelling performance he gives—Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969); All the President’s Men (1976)—he gives several bordering on narcolepsy. Just look at him in The Company You Keep (2013); this is a man on the run from federal agents whose heart rate doesn’t get above 45 beats per minute.

In All is Lost Redford is the whole show, and the fate of the movie rests squarely on him. It doesn’t matter how good a screenplay is, and J.C. Chandor’s screenplay and direction are excellent, if we don’t care about the person on screen, but Redford is up to the challenge. In All is Lost, he’s quick, canny, resilient, angry, and morose, all in the span of 100 minutes, and often in the same scene. All is Lost is beautiful, wonderfully acted, terrifying, and altogether possible.

An unnamed man (Redford) on a solo voyage in the Indian Ocean wakes up to the sound of rushing water as his boat collides with a shipping container adrift at sea. The hole in the hull rapidly fills with water—and children’s sneakers, (a sly commentary on the global reach of Western commerce)—and becomes the least of the man’s problems.

In fact, he’s so quick thinking, he patches the hole in about 24 hours with plastic grabbed from other parts of the boat and a heavy-duty epoxy. Unfortunately, the damage from the shipping container is just the beginning. His navigation equipment, which rests directly under the hole, is waterlogged and useless. Even drying the equipment out on deck doesn’t help.

He makes the most of the books on board that detail celestial navigation and figures he’s about 1,200 miles south of the nearest shipping lane, and plots a course to sail toward it.

Nature has other ideas. There are approaching storms, big storms, and it’s here that Redford (the character doesn’t get a name—and he doesn’t really need one) runs into his worst trouble as the boat is tossed around in waves so big they’re difficult to see; the ocean is a wall of water. And then there’s the driving rain and gusting winds to contend with.

Director Chandor’s first feature was Margin Call, the 2011 drama about an investment bank on the verge of going under during the 2008 financial crisis. Lots of talking with stern voices and veiled threats about the end of life as we know it.

All is Lost is a wholly different animal, no less dangerous, and answers similar questions: What are we made of? What lengths will we go to survive? It’s one of the best films of 2013, and Redford’s performance is one of the year’s best; it’s certainly his greatest. What he can do with a steely glance or a hopeful look speaks louder than his opening voiceover—the film’s one misstep—and reminds us why he’s been one of the most fascinating figures in cinema for nearly 50 years.

Playing this week

Blue Jasmine
Regal Downtown Mall Cinema 6

Captain Phillips
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

Carrie
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

Cloudy With a Chance
of Meatballs 2
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

Despicable Me 2
Carmike Cinema 6

Don Jon
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

Enough Said
Regal Downtown Mall Cinema 6

Escape Plan
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

The Fifth Estate
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

Gravity
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

Grown Ups 2
Carmike Cinema 6

Inequality for All
Regal Downtown Mall Cinema 6

Insidious Chapter 2
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

Kick-Ass 2
Carmike Cinema 6

Machete Kills
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

Monster’s University
Carmike Cinema 6

Prisoners
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

Riddick
Carmike Cinema 6

Romeo and Juliet
Regal Downtown Mall Cinema 6

Runner Runner
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

Rush
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

The Smurfs
Carmike Cinema 6

The Summit
Regal Downtown Mall Cinema 6

Wadjda
Regal Downtown Mall Cinema 6

The Way, Way Back
Regal Downtown Mall Cinema 6
Carmike Cinema 6

The Wolverine
Carmike Cinema 6

Movie houses

Carmike Cinema 6
973-4294

Regal Downtown Mall Cinema 6
979-7669

Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX
244-3213

Comment Policy