Tuesday, 31 December 2013


How fragile yet how resilient. The clouds on the horizon do not forebode a storm of gargantuan proportions, but just enough to lay waste to the Virginia Jean, and possibly to its sole inhabitant / crew member. He is nameless, largely wordless, for amidst all this metal and plastic and wood, all this machinery, his concern is that most natural and most animal: to survive. And it is so easy to be killed, but so hard to die. J.C. Chandor eschews the rugged masculinity that is inherent in the traditional survival-at-sea story for a delicacy that is initially puzzling but eventually fitting. The sound mix is thin and wispy, the editing is both artful and quite measured, and Our Man, Robert Redford, is surely no physical match for the travails that await him, his perseverance and mental fortitude aside. That mental fortitude bypasses fleeting emotion, and denies him such arrogance to rant and rail against his fortunes and seek to search for blame. His pragmatism cannot save him from facing that one more troubling fact of life, though - that it will end. For a film so ostensibly concerned with practical matters, All Is Lost is a disarmingly spiritual experience, and it is the sensitivity of Chandor's touch that allows this pivotal feature of the film to thrive. What it will come down to for Our Man is not a physical battle but a mental one, and whether he wins or loses it is left ambiguous, for why ever shouldn't it be? The film is about one human being's struggle to keep his head above water, at all costs, and it is over when it is over. It is also allegorical, and pleasingly so, not irritatingly. The score by Alex Ebert is no grand musical accomplishment, but it possesses the rare quality of being in total service to the film, and never betraying its key preoccupations, and so was a smart post-production addition.