By Mike O. (Alpharetta, GA)
How does one make a film that will not bore, with no dialogue and only one character? The closest answer is in writer and director J.C. Chandor’s All Is Lost. Starring Robert Redford as the sole, unnamed character, this film was filmed primarily at Fox Baja Studios in Mexico and released in November 2013.
Redford is sailing solo across the Indian Ocean when his boat collides with a stray shipping container, leaving a sizeable gash on the side of the vessel. He manages to repair it with extra supplies on board, but the crash destroyed his communication and navigation devices. Without these, he soon finds himself in the middle of a raging storm, which he fights as long as possible. However, the storm eventually re-opens the gash in the sail boat, and Redford is forced to abandon ship onto his life raft, not knowing if help will ever come.
Although with no dialogue it seems like one would quickly become distracted from the film, the absence of spoken word is actually the driving force behind this film. It forces the viewer to become more deeply involved than they typically are in a film, as the viewer must come up with their own running dialogue in his or her own mind, interpreting Redford’s physical expressions as feelings and thoughts. Consequently, you feel as though you personally are on the life raft, feeling the same determination and struggle as Redford is to get off of that raft.
All of this is possible, of course, only because of Redford’s spectacular acting in this film. After all, your acting must be at its peak of perfection if you want to entertain audiences without speaking a word. Redford really mastered his ability to express complex (yet easily readable) emotion solely through his expressions, and this is what allows the viewer to feel what he is feeling.
The cinematography is another key element of what makes this seemingly unrelatable plot line suddenly relatable to the average audience. It’s more than your average home video where Dad seems to develop rapid onset shaky-hands every time he picks up the camera, but it’s not quite your typical adventure/ action movie filming.
There aren’t any unrealistic special effects, no explosions, and no Lock Ness monster-esque sea creatures trying to eat the life raft (finally!). It is filmed with very realistic videography, more relatable to a documentary-type filming than anything else. Instead of seeing the life raft being pitched back and forth in the open ocean, the camera moves with the waves. The viewer feels as though they are right behind the camera.
All three of these elements – no dialogue, superb acting, and unique cinematography – come together to make this film work. They make for deep personal involvement and an “along for the ride” experience, far more so than your average survival film. All Is Lost is a memorable film that will keep you thinking for days after.