Okay, who’s with me? Who else was waiting for something else to happen? Now, I love the Sundance Kid as much as the next man possibly can, but let’s make no bones about it, ‘All Is Lost’ is interminably, defencelessly dull.
Perhaps I’m being too critical. There will be those out there that suggest that this is an award-winning, considered piece of film-making, brimming with humanity, showing us revelatory philosophies hitherto unappreciated by us mere mortals, until now, when Mr Redford deigned to acknowledge them with his presence, and us with his time.
At the same time they will lambast the excess of Hollywood and criticise the loud and vulgar in favour of the subtle and measured alternative. This isn’t it, however. Its one man on a boat that they couldn’t even be bothered giving a name to. Perhaps there is a genuine reason that he barely says a word throughout the entire film. Perhaps there is a reason that I was constantly wondering just what Tom Hanks’ castaway would have made of all the equipment afforded to the crusty old fuddy-duddy featured here. Perhaps the decision to not have a live tiger on board (Pi fans) was foolhardy, and would have made this man’s seemingly paltry efforts at survival (despite enjoying more at his disposal than a volleyball and a pair of ice skates) a little more, let’s say, enthusiastic and focused.
Now, to be fair, I’m no sailor. I enjoy sailing out into the middle of nowhere, completely unprepared, about as much as I like to hear a clueless imbecile’s opinion on cinema. Suffice to say, I don’t do it, so whether this is a realistic portrayal of an aging seaman with buckets of ingenuity, or just some daft old fart out on whimsical jaunt into the inevitably stormy neverafter that really should be accompanied by an opinionated old woman that knows less than he does but has what she really believes is an attractive hat, I really couldn’t say. But honestly, more importantly, I do not care.
Why would you empty a life raft that is clearly a foot deep in water with a damp cloth? Is this the indication of a master (albeit jaded) of the high seas?
His waterproof trousers and jacket look like they came straight out the bag that he put them in at the counter of Tesco. They were folded and unused. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, folded and unused. He picks stuff up, looks at stuff and then puts stuff down again, griping curmudgeonly at either their apparent inability to work or his inability to work them, despite knowing full well the reasons why they are not doing what they were designed to do in the first place.
The acting is completely believable, of course, assuming you believe you are watching Robert Redford, actor, stuck on a yacht with a ruddy big hole in it. And why wouldn’t you think exactly that? There is no character past to delve into, no life story to speak of. Should we care for this possible serial killer/paedophile/second coming, stuck on a boat with nowhere to go but down? There is no acting here to speak of at all. If you were put in the same position and were as clueless as ‘Our Man’ here is, then you too should get an Oscar. If all of this mucking about with rope and putting electronics out to dry is anything to go by then I’m afraid I’m not convinced enough that he should be let out in the back garden unsupervised, far less the middle of the bloody ocean.
What script there is, and there really isn’t much, is teeth-gratingly awful and just plain insipid. The narration over the opening shots is embarrassing and spoken with all the verve, panache and consideration of a man that has no detractors and subsequently thinks he can do what he likes and it will always be brilliant, simply because that’s what everyone has always told him, so that’s how it must be.
No. Now just stop it.
If ‘All Is Lost’ does have one thing going for it, it is thankfully realistic (or cynical, your call) in its approach to just how this poor old bugger goes about trying to save his own skin. It is true that it is far from Hollywood glitz and a nine million dollar budget still seems like alot, given the vacuous space, scant script, minimal casting and hollow cinematography. The film does well to hold the attention of the viewer at all, as very little happens of any note throughout the running time. If we are, as an audience, meant to dwell on the plight of the man and engage with him somehow, then I think the film is over-reaching and asking too much of its viewers, as there is little on offer here that your average audience can grasp. It may be fair to say, however, that this is not a film for your average audience, but saying that would imply that it is for a different, more niche crowd. What that audience is, aside from critics with a vested interest in its success, I cannot really fathom.
In summary, this is unfulfilling, often aggravating and very disappointing from people that can and have done considerably better. By the final act, as if finding his sea legs, Redford’s performance improves considerably, with the aid of the score which was intriguingly absent for much of the film, but it’s not enough to save it.