Are filmmakers trying to tell us something important? Here in 2013, is another film, this one from J. C. Chandor (who helmed the uber-relevant Margin Call), that when boiled down to its marrow (and trust me, this is one of the most boiled down films of recent memory) is essentially a “One Person Survival Tale Against All Odds.” As if Cuaron’s epic cosmic odyssey of survival and rebirth in Gravity wasn’t enough…or we weren’t sufficiently bored by Captain Phillips (seriously, what was the point of that film other than for Tom Hanks to break down and cry for an Oscar again?)…or Solomon Northup’s harrowing true life story in 12 Years a Slave wasn’t adequately profound…here comes the minimalist to the point of banality All is Lost. Is this trend (whose current incarnation actually stretches back to 2012 with The Grey and Life of Pi on opposite ends of the survivalist spectrum), which has admittedly seen some amazing highs, lending itself to some poignant commentary on the state of the world today? Or is it all just a bunch of pseudo-philosophical-political-societal-mirror-holding hogwash, some of which has been better packaged than others? And to be fair, though a survival tale, the historical and essential 12 Years a Slave should not be to be held to this type of reductionist dialogue like the others following this trend.
Robert Redford (looking old as heck and with oddly colored almost orange hair) plays the nameless “Our Man” – a loner, presented to us with next to no context, inexplicably out there somewhere in the Indian Ocean, who through a string of bad boating luck finds himself fighting for his life against the great big wide ocean. J. C. Chandor’s direction is sparsely poetic, and he’s created somewhat of a miraculous cinematic oddity here. I’ve never in my life been more mesmerized and bored simultaneously. Continue reading