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'All Is Lost' review - BFI London Film Festival 2013

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Director: JC Chandor; Screenwriter: JC Chandor; Starring: Robert Redford; Running time: 106 mins; Certificate: 12A


The BFI London Film Festival may divide itself up into differing thematic strands, but the overriding idea behind this year's event appears to be endurance. After the nerve-shredding Captain Phillips and Gravity comes All Is Lost, a near dialogue-free film about a man battling the sea (it sits in LFF's 'Thrill' section, in case you're wondering).

That man, "our man", is Robert Redford. He's woken one morning to find his yacht breached by a shipping container and taking on water. It's quickly patched up but greater challenges lie in store as his boat gets battered by a storm that leads him to abandon ship in favour of an inflatable life raft. Redford delivers a powerful performance, one heightened due to the star's glittering screen career and the bond an audience already has with him. He projects a quiet dignity as his unnamed sailor attempts to navigate into the Indian Ocean's shipping lane in the hope of being rescued.

Robert Redford in 'All Is Lost'
Sitting at the helm is JC Chandor, whose directorial debut Margin Call was a dense, talk-heavy look at Wall Street's 2008 financial meltdown. All Is Lost is a different beast, although both movies feature men fighting to survive in dangerous waters.

Redford's mariner speaks of "soul and body" being all that remains of him in the opening voiceover, and this is an apt description of the film itself. There's no backstory, no whys or hows, or cutaways to worried family back home.

This is both a strength and weakness to Chandor's tale. On the one hand it highlights Redford's understated performance and the film's technical achievements; sound design in particular, all creaking hulls, lapping waves and deafening storms, is superb. On the other it lessens the emotional pay-off for for Redford's character. What does he have to live for, if anything? We never find out, although the opening voiceover suggests a man who carries regret.

All Is Lost simply is what it is. A visually striking man versus nature story about enduring when the elements are conspiring against you. It'll also leave you with something to debate when the end credits roll, but make sure you take the trip to see these on the big screen. TV won't do this film justice.

Photo gallery - BFI London Film Festival in partnership with American Express in pictures:

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