And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink."
- Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner
That passage should give you a pretty good idea what to expect from this month's blindspot. It is the story of an unnamed sailor (Robert Redford) simply known as "Our Man", who is endangered by a chance encounter with a stray shipping container, leaving a hole in his boat. Our Man manages to patch up the hole but his radio cuts out and he has no contact with the mainland, and thus he has no way of anticipating what he is about to go through. He unwittingly drives right into a storm and from there faces one misfortune after desperately trying to survive.
All is Lost is a film that had me fascinated from the moment I first heard about it back in December or January through the IMDB message boards. I do have a tendency to get easily attracted to nautical stories, but the whole idea of the film intrigued me, particularly the fact that it was done almost entirely with a single actor and how it works with such a minimalist environment. I absolutely had to find a copy and see it.
Unfortunately it took some time before the movie came out on DVD and even when it did one thing or another kept getting in the way and other films ended up taking priority. I really wanted to see this movie but I was never sure when the best opportunity was to obtain it. When I decided to take part in the Blindspot Challenge I had to put together a list of seven movies (since I started in June), and tried to keep it simple, mostly sticking to films I already owned but put off watching.
However, I also saw an opportunity to finally try and get a copy of All is Lost and watch it. In fact, it ended up being the only one of my choices that I didn't already own to make it onto the final list (I ultimately had to remove Touch of Evil and Blue is the Warmest Colour due to concerns regarding cost and availability, replacing them with The Life and Death of Peter Sellers and White Hunter, Black Heart). I finally managed to obtain a copy of the film back in July, and it ended up being the pick for August.
Now this was an amazing movie, but figuring out where to begin discussing it is a challenge in itself. It is a very minimalist piece, to the point where Our Man is the only character of significance. Robert Redford has nothing but himself and the environment to work with. He has almost no dialogue in the entire run time of the movie. you could literally count all his lines on one hand. Instead, he expresses himself primarily through body language and expression, but this is far from a silent movie; much of the soundtrack consists of diegetic sound from the environment surrounding Our Man. You have the waves, the rain, the wind, the sounds that come when Our Man is pulled under the water, and the rocking of his boat just to name a few.
The general atmosphere of this piece is certainly effective. I actually found myself feeling cold while seeing him being constantly sprayed during a storm (though that could have been cool air from outside, either way, it helped). You really get a sense of just what sort of emotional torment the unfortunate protagonist is going through, and scenes like those depicting the storms make it quite clear just how much danger Our Man is really in. They become tense, sometimes even giving a sense of disorientation but never completely losing the viewer.
That brings us to all the wonderful cinematography this film has to offer. Everything is executed well but special mention goes to all the underwater shots. All Is Lost has a curious editing trick to illustrate the passing of time through underwater shots looking up towards the surface (where we can see it to be lighter or darker than the previous scene). In these shots we get lots of great views of various types of fish, including one scene with a number of sharks. Of course, the underwater photography also helps during some the really tense moments of the film, particularly the moments when Our Man finds himself in the water one way or another, especially during the storm scenes and the climax.
All Is Lost is an incredible movie, definitely one I would recommend looking for if you get the chance. It is a fascinating experience in non-conventional filmmaking while still retaining a narrative straight forward enough to follow. There is plenty of emotion for such a simplistic narrative, and it will keep wanting you to see how things work out for Our Man. It shouldn't be hard to find on DVD, so check it out. You won't regret taking time to see this one.