Sunday, November 10, 2013

All Is Lost - Robert Redford's Tour de Force


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All Is Lost, the latest film by Robert Redford, is certainly his "tour de force.  I have to agree with the critics, this is Redford's finest film performance.   Both the film and his performance are worthy of Oscars, and I hope he wins the Oscar for Best Actor as he is certainly deserving of one for his performance in this film.

I was totally captivated by the film and engaged in the story the entire time I watched.  I was fascinated by this man's ability to fight to survive this dreadful situation all alone. I am very visual, and this, of course is a very visual film, so I loved it.   There is barely any dialogue and we truly just watch his struggle at sea. 

Redford is such a refined and nuanced actor that he is able to capture our attention and keep it during the entire film.    He is older now, but in great shape.  His face is lined and wrinkled but he is still gorgeous after all these years, and his electric blue eyes still peer out of a strong-jawed face.  Men gain character with their facial lines and wrinkles, as we know, and Redford is a glowing example of this.

The film is a one-man show of 'our man', Robert Redford, sailing alone on the Indian Sea.  We don't know where he has left from and we don't know his final destination.  We don't know his name.  But, all that is unimportant, because what we see is an older man struggling to survive when his sailboat is smashed up against a steel cargo drum lost at sea. 

The film opens with Redford, stranded at sea, reading the last letter/message he wrote when his hope was waning of ever being rescued and surviving his ordeal.  Through this ordeal, he writes, he has learned some lessons in life and he apologizes for not having learned these important lessons at an earlier stage in his life.  We don't know to whom he is writing this message.  Is it to one person in particular or mankind in general?

 We then see him awakened on his sailboat when water is flushing into the cabin,  because his sailboat has rammed into the steel cargo drum that had fallen off of a cargo ship during the night.  He quickly assess the situation, determines the damage to the sailboat and goes about fixing the large, deep hole in the side of the boat.  

Of course, I was amazed at this character's prior depth of  knowledge of what to do and how to repair his boat in this kind of a situation.  Always, always have duct tap with you when sailing.  

 In fact, all through the ordeal, I was amazed at the knowledge and survival skills that this character had.   It was apparent he had a lifetime of sail boating knowledge behind him that certainly came in handy in his situation. 

Once the sail boat is patched, he continues navigating on his way.  Again, we don't know where that 'way' is, but we watch his confidence as he sails on.  We also learn the name of his sailboat is the 'Virginia Jean.'  We never learn who that is or the significance of the name for the boat, but interestingly it is a woman's name.  

Of course, Mother Nature has other plans for 'our man.'  There are two devastating storms, that I would say to be typhoons, that hit this man and his sailboat.   By the middle of the second storm, his sailboat is so battered, the mast and sails broken down and destroyed by the storms, that 'our man' has no choice but to inflate the rubber lifeboat in the choppy sea and then dive into it.  

The lifeboat is round and has a zippered tent to it which he zips up for protection from the storm.  It is like a little wigwam bouncing on the sea.  During this segment of the film, the underwater photography is stunning and my personal favorite part of the film.

I, again, was captivated by Redford's nuanced performance, the facial expressions, the frustration he experiences and excellently portrays as his situation becomes more dire and, as he tries to survive on this round lifeboat.  I was amazed at the survival equipment available on one of these lifeboats which 'our man' uses to fight the elements of nature and sea in his ordeal of survival.

He is even able to continue navigating with a navagation instrument provided on the lifeboat and a book he took from the cabin on celestial navigating.  He is knowledgeable enough and has the skills to be able to pinpoint exactly on a map where he is in this vast Indian Ocean.  I found that part of the film amazing.

He is even able to survive a third storm, zipped up in his 'wigwam' lifeboat, as it is tossed and turned in a 360 degree circle several times.   By now, 'our man's' confidence is breaking down and we sometimes see real fear in his face.  He finally becomes depressed as he realizes his odds of surviving are becoming less and less.

The human spirit's will to survive, even in the face of such fear, depression and great odds, is the major theme of this film.    And, I thought it was wonderful that the character was an older, more mature man in this situation.  Youth certainly has its advantages, but because of his older age, he has a depth of knowledge and skills learned over a lifetime of sail boating that someone younger in this situation just would not have.  

And, no matter how old a person is, or what has happened in the past for this man to be sailing such a great distance alone, the will to live and not give up is tremendous in a human being.  I think he finally realizes the fatal flaw in himself is his ego and in having the audacity to take this voyage alone.   

I won't tell the ending of the film; I will just say, always keep swimming toward the light in life.  That, also, is a major theme in this film.

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