With a script roughly 30 pages long, virtually no dialogue and just one character, “All is Lost” isn’t your typical lost at sea movie. But that’s exactly what drew two-time Academy Award winner Robert Redford to the film.
But even filmmaker JC Chandor had his doubts when he presented the script to Redford.
“He’s either going to say, ‘Hell yes, this sounds amazing,’” says producer Neal Dodson. “Or he’s going to say, ‘Why in the world would I do that? I have nothing to prove. Why would I put myself through that?’”
Fortunately for Chandor and Dodson, Redford loved the script, calling the film “bold” and “eccentric.”
Redford’s character, simply referred to as “Our Man” in the script, delivers another award-winning performance, portraying a man who battles for survival after his sailboat is destroyed while sailing across the Indian Ocean.
“Fate intervenes, the boat has an accident, and essentially we go on an eight day journey with him as he fights to survive,” Chandor says in a statement.
In the early moments of the film, Redford’s sailboat collides with a cargo container, causing water to enter the boat and damaging his radio and connection to the outside world. For the rest of the movie, Redford battles the open-water elements of nature, while always thinking about solving problems and trying to live another day.
The music is composed by Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros frontman Alex Ebert. It was Ebert’s first project of this kind, and he embraced the challenge.
“This project was a dream – an open space to play in but also space to listen to the elements – wind, water, rain, sun, are the story’s other characters to me,” Ebert said. “I knew I had quite a task ahead of me: to at once allow the elements to sing and to give Redford a voice with which to, once in a while, respond.”
According to the press materials, Ebert also came up with themes on the piano, then mocked them up with sampled flutes or other sampled instruments. He brought in other musicians to play certain parts, including ESMZ percussionist Orpheo McCord and pianist Mitchell Yoshida.
While the soundtrack contains 11 songs, including the soulful song Amen, the film itself effectively contains shorter pieces of the full songs.
“A lot of that was a decision that Alex and the director made together — taking the music out of it, just the sound design of Redford on the boat and going through it,” ESMZ manager Bryan Ling said. “It’s a little more real.”
Matt Patches, of Hollywood.com, says Ebert’s score “was like a musical elegy, both epic and soft.”
For more about Ebert’s involvement in the project, read “‘All is Lost’ soundtrack featuring Alex Ebert released.”
Here’s what others had to say about the film:
Tim Grierson, Screen Daily:
“Among its other attributes, ‘All Is Lost’ is a fascinating attempt to eschew the conventions of the battle-for-survival genre.”
Eric Kohn, Indiewire:
“An impressively realized work of minimalist storytelling that foregrounds Redford’s physicality more than any other role in his celebrated career.”
Geoffrey Macnab, The Independent:
“It’s to Chandor’s credit that he contrives an ending that is both graceful and dramatic without lapsing into melodramatics.”
Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter:
“Redford, who can’t avoid exuding charisma, plays this role with utter naturalism and lack of histrionics or self-regard.”
Andrew Pulver, The Guardian:
“Chandor resolutely avoids stage tricks…that might, in less rigorous films, have been deployed to supply backstory or facilitate emotional empathy.”
Alex Billington, First Showing:
“All is Lost – A stunning work of art. Grueling, thrilling, meticulous, moving. Redford is extraordinary, filmmaking is remarkable.”
Robbie Collin, The Telegraph:
“All Is Lost, JC Chandor’s follow-up to Margin Call, adds up beautifully: Robert Redford+sinking yacht=elemental survival drama.”
Kenji Fujishima, InReview Online:
“ALL IS LOST (2013, Chandor): a one-man survival-at-sea tale. Maybe elemental to a fault, but Robert Redford is tremendous.”
Jordan Hoffman, Film.com:
“There’s no denying star power. While the filmmaking is splendid, Redford makes ALL IS LOST. This ranks among his career highlights.”
Jake Howell, Movie City News:
“Joining the choir for ALL IS LOST. Robert Redford joins Oscar Isaac in the coming Best Actor race a few months from now.”
Matt Mueller, Thompson on Hollywood:
“Robert Redford is pretty darn great in All Is Lost. Hardly says a word but his solitary fight for survival is emblematic & iconic.”
Steven Zeitchik, Los Angeles Times:
“Redford’s All Is Lost is that rare, affecting film creature: minimal storytelling with maximal metaphor.”