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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