Robert Redford's new one-man movie, "All is Lost," is an extraordinary tour de force. There's a few words spoken by Redford reading from a letter at the beginning of the film and a one-word cri de coeur near the end. The rest of the film is the sound of the sea, of water, of sounds made by a man on a deadly race against time and tide to survive against increasingly impossible odds.
Redford gives a powerful performance, the portrait of a self-sufficient, immensely competent man who methodically faces down each obstacle that arrives, stubbornly refusing to give in to despair or failure or panic, bulldogging to the end with the quiet problem-solving determination of a test pilot in a broken jet hurtling to earth -- no panic, total focus, try this, try that, -- until, in the words of Tom Wolfe, the plane "augers in."
The cinematography is spectacular, especially its use of scale (the small boat, the immensity of the sea) to illustrate the fragility of life and the utter indifference of nature. Or the use of scale as subtext. In one scene, Redford's in the lifeboat and desperately trying to head into the shipping lanes in hopes of attracting attention from any passing ships. Eventually, a cargo container ship comes his way but it is so immense, so towering, so closed off from it's surroundings so as to be a self contained universe all its own -- a behemoth too gigantic to notice a tiny life raft and a small desperate human.
That scene also recalls to mind that it was a floating container filled with tennis shoes, likely fallen off a similar cargo ship, a huge hunk of indifferent flotsam that put our sailor in peril in the first place by bumping into his boat and puncturing the hull: An indifferent, random, pointless, encounter in the middle of nowhere.
"All is Lost," is a riveting film; tense, exciting, scary, unsettling, beautiful, awesome, despairing, heartbreaking, exhausting, and triumphant. Unforgettable. Don't miss it.