All Is Lost, Robert Redford as the Surprisingly Young Looking Considering His Age Man and The Sea.

All Is Lost.

All Is Lost.

The first thing all actors do whenever they arrive for their first day on set is to mark off all the scenes that has their character in. Then they take all of the rest of the pages of the script and throw them into the nearest bin. After all, what possible use could they have for them?

So it’s not that hard to see why Hollywood legend Robert Redford might have agreed to play the lead in All Is Lost, the second feature from rookie film maker J. C. Chandor.

Here’s a film with literally just one character. Not only is he guaranteed to be in every scene, he’s gong to end up in practically every frame.

The last time Robert Redford acted in anything remotely interesting was Indecent Proposal some 20 years ago in 1993, which was at least a good idea for a film.

Since then, his performances in the likes of The Horse Whisperer (’98), The Last Castle (’01) and Lions For Lambs (’07), and the fact that he agreed to be in them in the first place all confirm that acting per se has long since ceased to be of serious interest to him.

Redford directed the excellent Quiz Show in '94.

Redford directed the excellent Quiz Show in ’94.

The omens then for All Is Lost were not good. So it was a very pleasant surprise to find myself perched on the edge of my seat for almost each and every one of its 106 minutes. And whilst it mightn’t be Hemingway, it’s an impressively crafted and well-wrought drama not a million miles from what the young Stephen Spielberg was doing in his made for TV feature Duel in 1971.

Redford plays a soon to be middle-aged man – he’s even begun to go grey around the temples – who’s stranded on a tiny boat in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Sure there are one or two moments when the spell is broken.

Would he really have stood there stitching his forehead as the boat he stood in sank beneath his feet? And would he really have managed to hold on to his reading glasses throughout the whole ordeal? Reading glasses, another sign of course that he’ll soon be hitting his 40s, or at least his mid 30s.

And when he goes out on deck to battle the raging storm that has been CGId behind him, it’s about as convincing as seeing one of those gangsters in a 40s film noir holding on to a comically bouncing steering wheel, as a film of the street he is supposed to be driving down is projected on to a shimmering curtain behind him.

Redford set up the Sundance Film Festival in '78, and met Chandor there when he screened his debut.

Redford set up the Sundance Film Festival in ’78, and met Chandor there when he screened his debut Margin Call (’11).

But these are minor quibbles. For the most part, this is a surprisingly gripping film. And, remarkably, Redford gives a restrained and quietly monumental performance that stands up to any of his best work from the 70s.

And as for Chandor, this is as impressive a Hollywood calling card as you’re likely to see. You can expect to see him on board the next multi-houred, entirely CGId and pointlessly 3Dd, fetid franchise, coming soon alas to a cinema near you.

You can see the All Is Lost trailer here.

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