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201 out of 255 people found the following review useful:

Disappointing for sailors - but still a great performance

Author: Yorick from United States
21 October 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

CONTAINS SPOILERS - Outstanding performance, beautifully underplayed, gripping. This works for me, mostly. It's great in its deliberate confinements. But, as a sailor, I am disappointed.

There are inconsistencies, but even more astounding is the lack of our man's seamanship. Pretending to be a seasoned sailor, he makes quite a fool of himself through horrible negligence: There is no "abandon ship bag", he carries an empty fresh water tank, he uses no sails or the engine during the storm, etc...

- He never wears a PFD/life vest, or a survival suit later on. Interesting survival tactics. Our man goes overboard quite often - and even without drowning!

- What an idiocy to hold your boat with one line while jumping on a container - no secured line, no PFD. Then instead of securing the line, he holds it with one hand while untying the sea anchor from the container (which was minutes ago strong enough to pull the container away). Then he walks both lines back to the boat as if they were chihuahuas. Argh! Honestly, he deserves to fall between boat and container and lose both lines due to rope burn...

- No lever for the manual bilge pump at hand? He carves a piece of wood (probably his flagpole) to be able to pump his vessel empty? Puhleeease.

- I understand his shaving ritual - a last trial to exert some control and composure before the sh%$t hits the fan. He seems to consider his options mostly pretty well, but how stupid is it to start switching sails when the storm is blowing already. The main sail - even when not up - seems to be reefed, but we don't see it really being used, and neither is it ever properly tightened to the boom. This costs him rightfully the mast later on.

- Instead of using a fully reefed mainsail and a storm jib (or the engine) to keep control of his vessel, he just gets sloshed around and can't maneuver at all. No wonder that he gets the big waves fully on the beam.

- He wears only one instead of two tether lines. No jack lines on deck or any click-in points close to the center line of the boat. He attaches himself to the lifelines! Another recipe for disaster. When you go overboard, you almost certainly hang under the water surface and have hardly a chance to get back aboard. Stoooopid. He could be happy if the stanchions broke and release him so that he could make it to the ladder on the stern. But that is probably tied up in a way that he can't release it from the water surface. Another reason to NOT make it.

- Instead of a life-sling system he has just an old horseshoe buoy.

- A hand-held radio would be very valuable when a ship comes right by. Much better than his cheap flares. BTW: Good try to clean his radio with fresh water, but why does he try to fix the antenna connection on the mast top AFTER his radio is toast?

- He jumps (!) without provisions (!) or PFD into his life raft, but leaves it connected, closes the zipper and tried to sleep. If the boat sank, we would be gone, too.

In some details I beg to differ from comments I have seen in other comments:

- A commenter complained that the boat had no self steering mechanism which would be necessary and crucial for a single handed ocean crossing. The boat definitely had one. You see the wind vane behind the stern pulpit, and you also see a line around the steering wheel axle. The vane breaks off after the first storm, the remnants are still visible.

- A commenter complained that the boat had no EPIRB, an "Emergency Position Indicating Beacon". Once activated, it sends out a distress signal per satellite to alert coast guards and passing ships of a disaster at sea. I thought I saw one mounted to the stern pulpit before the first storm. But maybe it was just a man-over-board marker.

- Someone said that there was no dodger to stay in the shade and being protected from spray. I thought I saw one - but it was definitely gone after the first storm.

Our man's radio skills are not exactly text book. The useless boat hook from Worst Marine, and the sextant being unwrapped in the life raft only, were nice details contributing to the characterization of our man. So even for sailors there were some nice hints of cutting corners, hubris and overconfidence. I assume the shortcomings in our man's seamanship were deliberately written into the script - otherwise we would have too much of a superman. If real development happens in this movie, it is probably his ruefulness that he never learned and practiced his stuff in time and went so poorly prepared out to sea.

Some situations get solved too quickly: Bringing down a furled head sail and pulling up a storm jib is a real bummer in a storm, especially alone. Jumping without live vest in a storm out of a life raft to right it? Easy peasy. Anyway, the movie showed sufficiently the exhaustion our man has to go through. Just his overboard experiences (twice from the boat, once from the life raft) are quite implausible. I nearly started laughing when he swam back underwater to his capsized boat and just held on in the cockpit until he was back up and in business.

At least he wore a knife at all times, tied to his pants. Good sailor! Still an interesting movie to see. But as movie with this realistic, not to say naturalistic approach it has certainly some flaws for sailors.

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136 out of 207 people found the following review useful:

One Man in a Boat

Author: Alan Chan from London
12 October 2013

One man in a boat - no back story, no people, (virtually) no dialogue and no unnecessary exposition - just one man against the elements and what a gripping story it is. Robert Redford plays an unnamed yachtsman deep in a solo voyage in the Indian Ocean when he is hit by catastrophe. Why he is there is not explained but that is not important. What follows is an epic struggle for survival between man and the elements. Fans of Robert Redford will be shocked by his aging good looks and this is accentuated by the sheer physicality of the role, which makes you wonder whether he is too old for the part, but Redford carries it off with aplomb. You'll be blowing hard with him as he lifts, climbs, carries, pushes and pulls his way around the boat. For a man three years shy of his 80th birthday, Redford shows that he is still supremely fit.

The director, J.C. Chandor, is fast developing a reputation for lean, mean electrifying storytelling and like his first film, 'Margin Call', another fat free but thrilling examination of the demise of Wall St, 'All is Lost' wastes no time in telling a simple story with skill, verve and edge-of-your-seat tension. What 'Jaws' did for sharks this film will do for yachts. The underwater shots reminds you of the best cinematography of the BBC's finest wildlife documentaries such as 'The Blue Planet' and the camera work of the boat beset by storms are nothing short of miraculous and astonishingly, seemingly free from CGI effects.

The fact that Redford does not talk (with one exception which will have you empathising hugely with the character – 'when it rains, it pours') turns the film into an intense character study and makes his plight even more compelling as you start to care deeply about his fate, so much so that by the end of the film, you are desperately hoping for a contrived ending. Does Redford's character survive? You will have to see the film to find out but what I can tell you is that tears will be rolling down your cheek at the closing credits but sorrow or in relief?

With 'Gravity', another man versus the elements (albeit space) film, out in a few weeks time and gaining massive Oscar buzz as one of the best films of the year, 'All is Lost' can also be considered in the same breath as its more illustrious forebear and together with the imminent release of 'Captain Phillips', hearkens back to a time in the 70s when disaster films were all the rage with the triumvirate of 'The Towering Inferno', 'Airport 75' and 'Raid on Entebbe'.

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101 out of 150 people found the following review useful:

Our Man is Sorry

Author: David Ferguson ( from Dallas, Texas
1 November 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Greetings again from the darkness. In Cast Away, Tom Hanks makes friends with a volleyball. In The Old Man and the Sea, Spencer Tracy talks to the whale. In Harvey, James Steward chats it up with a tall imaginary rabbit! It takes Robert Redford to show us how to face isolation with dignity and silence (save one well-deserved F-word).

Writer/director J.C. Chandor brought us the very good Margin Call (2011), which was filled with many characters and significant dialogue. Here, he delivers a single character and no real dialogue - only the initial log entry and a couple of SOS calls into a short-circuited radio. This is one man's struggle for survival. It's that man vs nature. It's our man facing mortality and isolation.

So you are probably wondering how this can hold your attention for two hours. The real answer is Robert Redford. At age 77, his screen presence is remarkable. Having never been a "showy" actor, his performance and this movie depend on facial expressions, his body language, and mostly his ability to connect with an audience immediately. Technically, the movie is exceptional, especially in sound design and in creating a terrifying and believable situation.

Alex Ebert's music is subtle and effective, but let's get real ... Mr. Redford and his mop of red hair are the reason to see this movie. There is almost no back story on this character, other than what we infer from his opening log entry. We know his "I'm sorry" has many meanings to his family, but we soon realize his will to live probably comes from an internal drive connected to his apology. It's nice to see a role for an older actor that doesn't included stupid humor designed to make kids laugh. Not much humor in this one, but there's no reason to be sorry.

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93 out of 136 people found the following review useful:

Very Lazy Writing Sinks this Film Early On

Author: Leftbanker from Spain
29 December 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Spoilers ho! Wow, the writers really screwed up this film which should have been a lay-up. Did they even bother to talk with a single person who has spent more than an hour on a sailboat or did they just wing it from their experience on some Catalina Island booze cruise? The first problem he faced was an act of god, as they say, and not his fault but just about every problem after that was the result of his own stupidity and very poor seamanship. The movie is like what not to do if you have an emergency in a small boat at sea.

So he hits a container putting a nice hole in his starboard side about 2 feet X 2 feet. No biggie. He has resin to patch it up which he does incompetently. For some reason he loses all electrical power. Why his engine doesn't work isn't explained (and no back-up outboard motor for a yacht this size?).

His sailing skills during the storm were basically non-existent. You don't wait until the excrement hits the fan to put up your storm jib and reef the living daylights out of your mainsail. Once again, what about his engine? To broach a boat of that size you really have to mess up royally, like letting yourself get hit right on the beam with a huge swell. Why would you go below during a storm in the first damn place? Ever heard the expression "All Hands on Deck?" I think that applies here. You can sleep and shave after the squall. In the end the fact that his vessel goes down had little or nothing to do with the hole from the container. He simply screwed up during the storm.

Rule number 1 through 99 is WATER! It's the most important thing to consider when you finally abandon ship. These days with all of the survival foods available you could last for months in a life raft and some people do. Read Adrift where the dude survived for 67 days and crosses the Atlantic after sinking almost immediately after hitting a container in the dead of night. I would imagine that most life rafts come with a solar still water purifier which is little more than a blow-up beach ball. Just why he didn't prep his life boat after he hit the container was something I was wondering about way before his ship sunk. His boat had plenty of fresh water and he can't carry 20 gallons on to the raft? They probably felt the dire water situation added drama but it made him look like a clumsy child. His crappy solar still wouldn't produce enough to keep him alive long.

I doubt that anyone has ever learned celestial navigation on their own in a life raft at sea. I don't think it works that way. And why even bother trying to find your position when you have no means of propulsion in the water. He had way bigger problems to worry about, like water.

In this day and age I find it very hard to believe that he would have no sort of communication. How about a two-way radio? Jesus, they go for about $20 these days and are a lot better for signaling a passing ship than a flare. Most ships these days won't even have anyone looking out at the sea. Why would they?

And then he sets his own craft on fire which might happen if you start a fire in a plastic container in the middle of your rubber raft. He doesn't deserve to survive. What a complete waste of what could have been a great movie. A great movie would have been the survival tale of a really experienced and highly resourceful seaman, not like this bungling fool.

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96 out of 153 people found the following review useful:

I hope Redford gets Oscar nomination

Author: richard_rossi from Hollywood, CA
1 November 2013

Redford is great and this film shows how such a simple idea with one actor can work. As a filmmaker, it was interesting to see how a dialogue-free movie can work visually with a story that reminded me of Hemingway's "The Old Man and the Sea." For me, the story was a metaphor or allegory for life and our struggles. Cinematography was good, shot on the Arri Alexa, one of the hot cameras at the moment. The lack of dialogue and having only one actor made it a meditation for me on the visual elements. I hope Redford gets Oscar nomination. I'm inspired that a veteran like Redford had confidence in Chandor to go on this experimental film journey together.

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49 out of 68 people found the following review useful:

The triumph of human spirit

Author: cinematic_aficionado ( from London, England
31 December 2013

Ocean sailing that went sour. Man wakes up in the middle of absolute oceanic nowhere to find he had collided with a container, causing damage to his boat as well as rendering communications totally ineffective.

The film is made as a series of events aiming for this man to fail. Once restoration and improvement of conditions is achieved, a setback occurs. He is exposed, unprotected and threatened once again. Death is constantly around the corner.

The sequences are very realistic, accurately depicting the inherent risk of sea adventure. The calm is followed by a storm which is succeeded by another calm.

The success of this film lies in the fact that it is held well together, despite the complete absence of dialogue and this why only an actor of the stature of Robert Redford could pull this off and is in terrific shape despite his 77 years.

Ultimately, it is a tale of triumph of the human spirit that will not yield in the face of adversity and will fight to the very end to survive.

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74 out of 122 people found the following review useful:


Author: anonymous1-841-245806 from United States
10 November 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

After reading a slew of rave reviews I had really high hopes for "All is Lost," particularly Redford's performance. As much as I wanted to like it, I came away somewhat disappointed. With only one character it all depends on Redford. And that's where it falls down. In one sense I agree with Scott. It was Redford playing Redford. He showed grit, determination, skill, an unwillingness to give up, supreme confidence in his own abilities. What he didn't show was emotion. Except for the one moment of the screamed epithet, he showed no fear, anger, panic, sense of desperation, all logical, even likely, in the face of his extreme peril. Even near the end of the film when all seems lost, his face showed nothing except fatigue.

It was just a sense of an older, weather-beaten, journeyman actor going through the motions.

And the film itself displayed little sense of the likely terror of the situation. It was as though the author made a checklist of terrible sea situations and portrayed one set piece after the other, allowing "Our Man" to solve each new problem. Hole in the hull; repair it; check. Waterlogged radio, clean it; possible signal, oh, darn, we'll have to try something else. Terrible storm that threatens everything; work through it; check. And as if one isn't enough, let's do it again. Loss of GPS; let's not only get out that ancient sextant but I'll teach myself how to use it; check. Loss of provisions; just fish around underwater and pull out some cans; check. No water?; I'll create an evaporation system; check. Reel in a fish; oops, grabbed by a shark; check. And so on and on.

It's the Perils of Pauline revisited, but at sea. The photography and effects were cool so it rarely got seriously boring, but after a while I wondered what he would overcome and solve next.

I wasn't particularly troubled by the lack of a back story. A man alone at sea trying to survive against the elements could make – and often has made – a great story. Just not this one.

And I even found the music over the top and too loud, particularly during the calm moments when it apparently was supposed to convey emotion that the character didn't.

I don't want to spoil the ending but even that was pretty well telegraphed. Could it have been otherwise? All in all this is one film that clearly fails to live up to its billing. I'll be really disappointed if Redford gets an Oscar nomination for this poor performance.

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52 out of 83 people found the following review useful:

The Emperor Has No Clothes

Author: Tommy T from United States
2 January 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Somebody needs to say it.

There is no acting -- just a bunch of rather short camera shots run together. With a sufficient number of takes and some clever cutting, it would be have been possible to have filmed a dog doing all of this.

Assuming that the director is responsible for establishing the pace of the various episodes, the director has failed to create any sense of either accelerating action toward a big conclusion or of action dying away toward a quiet finish. I'm not sure how you turn ship wreck and storms at sea into something static, but the director managed to do just that.

Details of the story line are troublesome. For instance, the man has a lot of nice equipment but is lacking some basics, like an EPIRB (or even just a backpacker's PLB would have given notice that there was trouble and the rough location). It seems like the writer's didn't have a real good sense as to what ocean sailing is all about. Or this one: he has no radio, no control over his course, but he has a sextant, that he has apparently never used before, and a beginner's book on celestial navigation. He spends a lot of time mapping his drift across the sea.

The sailor should have died, but he lives and what's with the hymn at the end?

Save some money. Wait for it on Netflicks.

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54 out of 87 people found the following review useful:

All is lost including your time.

Author: Quietb-1 from United States
13 December 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Tired of dialogue driven movies here's a movie to consider. Other then a little narration of a goodbye note and one deserved expletive there is no dialogue. That makes sense as the one actor in the film, Robert Redford, has no one to talk to.

No back-story was noteworthy but the star power of Redford comes with his own back story. You know he is Jeremiah Johnson at sea.

There is some strange behavior that takes you out of the moment. Bob put on a life vest. Seemed odd he didn't even take the funky horseshoe buoy into the water or life raft. Taking time to shave solved a problem of an aging movie star dealing with a gray beard.

Redford battles the sea, that often felt like a tank in Mexico, to survive and get award recognition. Expect one out of two.

The movie becomes tiresome and redundant. If you only see one will he make it movie this year, try "Gravity" .

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58 out of 97 people found the following review useful:

Redford's minimalism sails perfectly in this adventure.

Author: jdesando from United States
18 October 2013

"The rules of survival never change, whether you're in a desert or in an arena." Bear Grylls

No need to be stranded in the Indian Ocean in your sailboat because writer/director J.C. Chandor has masterfully provided the experience for you in All is Lost. In fact, you can be an Ancient Mariner retelling your story and never have starved or cursed an albatross. It's that good, that authentic a feeling, that pared down to the basics of survival.

"Our Man" (read "Everyman"), played with his signature cool by Robert Redford, is a rich, handsome, aging, expert sailor (he is probably a professional something when not sailing), whose back-story is unknown except for a few bits such as his voice over at the beginning lamenting he has not been all he should to his family and does not look at a gift card in a box for a new sextant, which he is reduced to using after almost all is lost in the storm.

The special effects are as fine as you might expect from such a high-end production—shots from depths upward to the boat are lyrically contradictory to the danger he is experiencing topside. The tumult inside the boat feels real as water takes its inevitable toll.

All is Lost serves as appropriate metaphor, among others, for the commercial forces that interfere in one's life and the end of life fight to survive in the face of inevitable death. The dignity Our Man displays, his resourcefulness, mostly lack of resentment, and his rare moments of anger at himself are how I hope I would react and probably wouldn't (I'd be a big baby because I don't favor the idea of leaving this beautiful world).

Redford's well-known minimalism lends just the right touch of gravity and loneliness to a role Hemingway wrote for his Old Man and Joseph Conrad could have fashioned for one of his brooding narrators. The New York Times' A.O. Scott reminds us you can hope to gain a Conradian truth from this vicarious adventure, "that glimpse of truth for which you have forgotten to ask" (Conrad's "Nigger of the 'Narcissus'," 1897). The other truth is, Redford is so believable as to deserve an Oscar nomination, his finest role on screen in a career for which he has constantly underplayed. He's still doing it, but this time he has no one else to distract us.

All is Lost leaves me with a small dissatisfaction because I'd like to know what his life has been so I can understand his possible death. Of course, Chandor seems to wish we would generalize the story to all men, and he's right to demand it. For me, surviving is what I always want to do—this film puts me right there:

"The ultimate value of life depends upon awareness and the power of contemplation rather than upon mere survival." Aristotle

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