Title: All is Lost
HTS Overall Score:88
Director J.C. Chandor appears to have found his rising star. After weathering what he calls “fifteen years of absolute mediocrity and failure,” Chandor wrote and directed Margin Call, a terrific – critically acclaimed – film. Now, two years later, Chandor returns to the big screen as writer and director of a low budget and unorthodox film. It’s one man versus nature in a life or death match with seemingly impossible odds. Just to make sure this is understood in the most direct of words, “one man” literally means “one man,” with the sole theatrical character played by Robert Redford. Redford’s character is a nameless retiree listed as “Our Man” in the credits, and that’s it (there’s no one else).
The premise of the film is rather simple. Redford is alone on a sailboat called the Virginia Jean, solitarily sailing somewhere in the Indian Ocean. Napping while adrift, his boat collides with an abandoned metal shipping container, ripping the hull and crippling the boat. Unfortunately for Redford, ocean water invades the boat’s cabin with ferocity and destroys his navigational and communications equipment. Following a calm assessment of the situation, Redford executes several resourceful tactics to stabilize the craft and sail onward.
If there were a second character identified in the film, it would be Mother Nature. As Redford finds, she’s a feisty and complicated friend. She’s a master of gracefully offering a benign sense of safety only to cruelly rip it all away with unrelenting power and devistation. As massive thunderstorms attack from the air and rogue waves rise from the water, Redord and the Virginia Jean are tumbled in the ocean, derailing their quest to intersect a shipping lane used by cargo ships traveling from Sumatra to Madagascar. Redford is forced to quickly make lifesaving decisions that narrow his options but keep him alive.
All is Lost chains the audience to Redford in a dignified fight for survival, and the weathered and leathery skinned actor is simply fantastic. Save for his delivery of an opening scene voice-over, a few S.O.S. calls, and a one-explicative outburst, the film is completely devoid of dialog. That means everything rides on Redford’s immense talent and nonverbal acting skills to communicate the ebbs and flows of his emotions and his utter will to survive. The vast majority of the film is shot on the same eye line as Redford, giving it a “you are there” feeling; visual effects are spectacular and seamless, only adding to the realism. The continuity of action within scenes is typically believable and edited in a way that keeps the film moving, which is difficult to do with a one man show on a boat.
There are a few moments where Redford defies all logic by surviving seemingly impossible situations. He also has moments where he moves so slowly and methodically that he appears to be floating in outer space. But, his character is a wily veteran of the seas and his triumphs and methods of madness aren’t totally outside of the realm of possibility. What’s most impressive is what Chandor and Redford manage to pull-off: a one man show that’s riveting and entertaining.
PG-13 for brief strong language.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/news/ail3.jpg[/img]Lionsgate delivers All is Lost with a 1080p AVC encode in a 2.40:1 widescreen format. The presentation is good, but not great, which is unfortunate considering the film’s overall quality and incredible audio presentation. The image carries a fairly bland color palate that’s rather bright (at times it has a washed-out appearance) and devoid of punchy colors; blacks are slightly subdued, however contrast is generally good. Fine details are visible throughout the film (which helps the film's presentation) and shadow detail is generally good. Some crush is evident in a few of the darker shots.
The biggest downfall of All is Lost’s visual side is the presence of banding (which immediately presents itself in the open scene) and minor noise/blotchiness in some of the darker scenes. Those elements are slightly annoying and keep the film’s visual presentation from obtaining a higher score.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/news//ail4.jpg[/img]Wow (jaw drops on floor).
The audio review could simply stop there... because it’s that good. With dialog essentially removed from the equation (and, just to note, the minimal appearances of Redford’s voice are throaty and pleasing), the film resorts to a 5.1 DTS-HD MA surround sound audio assault that is jam-packed with constant and highly detailed demo-worthy surround activity. For those of you familiar with the opening scene of Master and Commander and the creaks and moans within the innards of HMS Surprise...take that auditory experience and multiply by 106 minutes.
The film opens with water sounds sloshing dead-center in the rear and continues to dish-out highly nuanced boat and ocean sounds for the duration of the film, making for a swirling claustrophobic entrapment of sonic bliss. There’s clicking pulleys, metallic clangs, whipping sails, high pitched howls of wind, creaking wood, rushing water, and the thuds and thumps of water knocking on the Virginia Jean’s hull. Directionality and sound pans perfectly match on the screen action and changes in camera angles, making the experience entirely realistic. Rear channels are shutdown at the most precise of moments, taken out of the equation when they should be, only adding to their impact as they are reintroduced. There’s also a little matter of ocean storms; loaded with LFE and thunderous power, the storms’ sound effects are simply incredible.
Alex Ebert’s original score (winner of a 2014 Golden Globe) floats around the room, breathing to life with dramatic flair and leaving just as quickly as it arrives. It’s eerily dispersed throughout the film, adding to the emotion of scenes as needed. The score is also layered with smooth bass tones (several of which dig deep).
• Filmaker Commentary
• The Story
• The Filmaker: JC Chandor
• The Actor: Robert Redford
• The sound of All is Lost
• Big Film, Small Film
• Preparing for the Storm
• Also from Lionsgate
All is Lost is an incredibly ambitious film that takes a chance by telling the story of a man battling nature without the use of dialog or secondary characters...and it works. Writer and Director J.C. Chandor and actor Robert Redford deliver in a big way and the result is loads of fun to watch. The film is greatly aided by a surround audio presentation that is guaranteed to bring giant grins to home theater enthusiasts from shore to shore and beyond. It is that good...that dynamic...that stellar. While the film has a few video issues, the power of the story and its accompanying audio quickly make those issues irrelevant. It’s easy to recommend All is Lost as a blind buy, and is a sure-shot rental for non-collectors. Owners of the film will also find the disc’s included extras to be relatively solid. If you're interested in the film and haven't watched the theatrical trailer, do yourself a favor and keep it that way (the less information you have, the better the experience).
All is Lost is available on Blu-ray this week (February 11).
Starring: Robert Redford
Directed by: J.C. Chandor
Written by: J.C. Chandor
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1
Runtime: 106 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: February 11, 2014
Buy All is Lost on Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: A Must See