“Watching All Is Lost was essentially watching a guy do chores on a boat…”
War is hell, and so is the ocean; at least I would assume it is after watching All Is Lost. Robert Redford is at the helm (pun intended) of this movie that is about the unluckiest man in the world. Robert Redford plays a guy on a boat who wakers up to find that a shipping container has breached his ship and he is taking on water fast. The movie then continues to throw shit at this character and watches as he struggles. All Is Lost is a movie with only one character (Redford) and is about only one thing (survival); unfortunately what was occurring onscreen looked preferable to actually watching the movie.
I want to start by saying that I really wanted to like this movie; J.C. Chandor’s other film, A Most Violent Year, is a movie that I instantly fell in love with. But despite trying my absolute hardest, it was difficult to even stay awake during, let alone like, this movie. All Is Lost has one main problem in my eyes: it is absolutely exhausting. The movie starts by presenting a problem, then when that problem is seemingly fixed the movie introduces (read: violently throws at the main character) another problem; this is repeated until the movie has the mercy to end. I didn’t find the movie intense (except for a few scenes) and that may be because the main character looked as bored as I was feeling. So not only are there terrible things happening to this character (who I know absolutely nothing about), but the character doesn’t seems phased by any of it so why the fuck should I be? Couple that with the fact that all of the “storm” scenes were so obviously green screen, and I had no feeling of fear for the character. Watching All Is Lost was essentially watching a guy do chores on a boat; there was no intensity, there was no empathy for the character, I was just watching stuff happen.
Because the movie had only one (very bored) character, it had to compensate with technical aspects such as cinematography and music. One thing I absolutely loved about All Is Lost was the sound design. Throughout the movie we got sounds that by themselves were terrifying; creaks and groans, water gushing, snapping sounds. It all led to a wonderfully atmospheric experience that conveyed what it would be like in a similar situation; but the rest of the movie just brought it down. The score in All Is Lost is one of the worst I have heard (not necessarily musically, but because it didn’t fit at all). All Is Lost is movie that wanted to be a thriller, but they forgot it was just about a guy on a boat. The score reflects this because even when nothing is happening on screen, the music tells us that “something bad is going to happen”; and then nothing bad ever does. This is infuriating because you know that nothing is happening in this movie, and so did the director, so to fix that it was decided that the score would be ominous like that of a slasher film. To top it off, the score was terrible because it used sounds that mimicked those in the film. For example, there was a period where I heard a constant low groaning and I was expecting the ship to rip in half (you know, because ships aren’t supposed to groan unless something bad is happening). I couldn’t figure out why the main character wasn’t reacting to this, and instead going about his daily routine. It dawned on me when the music finally died down that I wasn’t hearing a “real” sound, just a terrible trick to again try and add tension where there is none. The movie tried to compensate for the boring subject matter by providing absolutely stunning shots of the ocean. I’m not being sarcastic when I say that they were beautiful; the problem is that this was not a nature documentary. Again I see this as a cruel trick because when I am shown a shot of the ocean and hear ominous music I think something bad is going to happen, but nothing did. The movie finally culminates into one of the dumbest endings I have seen; maybe I am being hard on the movie because it was an absolute bore to get through, but when I watched the film I couldn’t help but laugh at what I was seeing. Overall, the film is just disappointing.
Ultimately All Is Lost taught me that the Ocean is a terrible place; but I would rather deal with the Ocean than watch All Is Lost again.
I give All Is Lost a C