By William Wolf

NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL 2013--ALL IS LOST  Send This Review to a Friend

In “All Is Lost,” a highlight of the 2013 New York Film Festival, you get to spend an hour and 47 minutes watching Robert Redford. Who can argue with that? At 77, Redford has a well-lined face, but it is the Redford face, and he is in top acting form as he battles the elements alone in the Indian Ocean in a vigorous fight for survival against overwhelming odds. It is not just man against the ocean. It is Redford against the ocean even though he so thoroughly inhabits the unmanned character Our Man in this saga written and directed by J. C. Chandor.

Alone in his sailboat, Our Man begins to encounter catastrophic events as everything starts to go wrong with his vessel. A storm hits hard, and we watch Redford use wits and ingenuity in his determination to survive. Little by little his fate looks increasingly bleak. But he is a fighter, and the pleasure of the film lies in watching his fierce battle to hang on. The struggle is mental but also brutally physical as we watch Redford, in good shape, summoning stamina and courage.

He is consistently an eyeful, thanks to the actor’s ability in the context of Frank G. DeMarko’s extraordinary photography and the underwater photography by Peter Zuccarini. Pete Beaudreau’s editing is crucial to helping build the constant tension.

The force of Redford’s performance surmounts .the handicap of having to spend the time with a man alone at sea. Also, the suspense every time there is a chance of rescue by a ship that passes by the desperate man keeps one glued to the screen. You can take the film either on its face value or assign universality to the battle.

I have reservations about the ending, which leaves finality to the interpretation of the viewer and is tainted with other-world mystique. At that point the writer-director is playing with the audience. But until you get there, the film is adventure at its finest. A Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions release. Reviewed October 18, 2013.


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