Cannes Film Festival 2013 review: All Is Lost starring Robert Redford is almost dialogue-free, but exceptionally compelling nevertheless

5.00

JC Chandor's latest film sees 76-year-old Redford soaked, frozen bloodied and battered

JC Chandor’s remarkable second feature (after 2011’s Margin Call) is a story of a man lost at sea. There is only one actor (Robert Redford as the sailor) and no dialogue at all outside the short voice-over at the beginning of the film and the expletive that Redford yells in the depths of his despair.

Nonetheless, the film (screening out of competition in Cannes) has such rhythm and intensity that it makes utterly compelling viewing.

As the film starts, we hear Redford’s words in a mournful letter to his family, telling them he has only half a day’s ration, that he has been fighting his hardest to stay alive but that “all is lost.” We then flash back eight days. Aboard his yacht, which he is sailing alone far from land, he is suddenly jolted awake. In a freak accident, a metal container has pierced the side of his boat. There is a small hole and water is seeping into the hold.

The sailor is eminently practical. He patches the hole as best he can. However, his radio instruments are all soaked and broken. When the inevitable storm comes, his plight worsens.

Making this film must have been a grueling experience for Redford, who is now 76. He is on screen in almost every shot. We see him soaked, frozen, thrown around the boat, bloodied and battered by the elements. It’s an exceptional performance. He is playing a man who simply won’t give up.

You wonder just how Chandor can manage to make a feature film about a man stuck on a damaged and sinking boat seem dramatic. It’s the detail and precision of his storytelling style that makes All Is Lost so engrossing. As viewers, we are entirely caught up in the sailor’s struggle. In its own National Geographic style, the film is also very spectacular. Chandor throws in some very striking imagery of buffeting waves and storm clouds. From time to time, there are underwater shots of the shoals of fish and – latterly – the sharks  gathering around the stricken vessel.

Music is used sparingly but to great effect. The sound editing , though, is one of the film’s strongest elements. The sea and the wind make their own constant refrain.

All Is Lost could have been very dull if it was just a yarn about a sailor stuck on a boat in the middle of nowhere. What gives it such urgency is the constant changes in the circumstances Redford faces. At first, the damage to the boat looks relatively minor. Quickly, we realise that he is in a life or death struggle. If he makes the smallest mistake, mis-ties a knot or loses his footing on deck, we know he will be done for.

It’s to Chandor’s credit that he contrives an ending that is both graceful and dramatic without lapsing into melodramatics. Two years ago, the  silent film The Artist proved an Oscar-winning sensation. It wouldn’t be a surprise if All Is Lost, another film in which almost no words are spoken, achieves something similar.

Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam