When asked at Telluride why he agreed to appear in “All Is Lost” in which he is the sole actor, Robert Redford laughed that it was ironic that before J.C. Chandor, the film’s writer/director, no one coming through Sundance had asked him to be in a film. In 2011, Chandor’s debut feature “Margin Call” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, founded by Redford. Unlike “All Is Lost”, “Margin Call” had many characters and a lot of dialog.
In “All Is Lost”, Redford, plays an unnamed man sailing alone in the Indian Ocean. His ship has been damaged by a floating shipping container. The man (called “Our Man” in the credits) tries to stop the flooding. He has lost outside communication. “All Is Lost” maintains tension throughout with different situations and dangers as conditions deteriorate. The film is never repetitious.
Redford, mostly wordless, impressively conveys Our Man’s determination, ingenuity, and increasing desperation as conditions deteriorate in his weakened boat. Storms buffet the vessel and sharks surround him. He uses nautical charts to move toward possible contact. His face becomes reddened by the sun. Redford’s familiar voice is briefly heard as Our Man reads a possible farewell note with deep feeling.
Most of the film was shot in Mexico in the world’s largest filming tanks, constructed for “Titanic”. The three boats used in filming receive end credits.
Redford, who recently directed himself In “The Company You Keep”, said at Telluride that he was looking to return to acting for hire when he was asked about “All Is Lost”. The filmmakers purposely only left hints of Our Man’s past. Redford called the ocean “the most unexplored planet” with a “mystique” and where “nothingness turns to turbulence.”
Redford, who said he was active physical sports in his early life, described his stunts in the film as “fun”. He added “At this age, the more I did, the more he (director J.C. Chandor) pushed. He described himself during filming as “always wet, I felt like a reed”.
In a striking scene, Our Man shaves in a flooding boat. Redford described it as “trying to maintain normalcy in an abnormal situation”.