This review is easy. All is Lost is a good movie, and it will entertain you. After that, I’m not sure it has a point. But such is the state of cinema today.

All is Lost

All is Lost

The problem with storytelling as it exists in popcorn movies is now, unfortunately, trickling into more serious fare. All is Lost has more in common with thrillers such as Buried and Brake than it does with dramas, which it is purported to be. All of these movies are about survival. Can a person get out of a harrowing, life and death situation? We don’t really need to know anything about the character. There need not be any deeper point or metaphor to the tale of survival. We only want to see what happens. It’s beyond post-modern. It’s solipsistic.

What puts this in the Oscar consideration category is the lead actor, Robert Redford. Ryan Reynolds in a coffin in the desert is strictly B-Movie material, but Robert Redford on a sinking yacht at sea is Academy Award buzz.

One of my father’s favorite movies is The Naked Prey. You are never going to see this movie unless you are a Turner Classic Movies addict. It’s the story of a colonial-era exploration party in Africa. They are captured by natives and killed in gruesome ways. Only one man is allowed to live, and he is set loose to be hunted down by the best native warriors. He was the only member of the exploring party who respected the Africans’ ways, and after several days of eluding (and killing) his stalkers he makes it back to a military fort. Yes, it’s a tale of survival and the elements, but you can read into it allegories about colonialism and race. The lead character survives because his character is shown to be wise and empathetic.

All is Lost is wonderfully photographed and acted. It’s engaging and, at times, heart-breaking. But damned if I know why Robert Redford is at sea or who he is. Is this a pleasure cruise gone wrong on the Indian Ocean? Is he trying to set one of those solo-sailing records? Is he a bad or a good man? What are his sins? How can he be redeemed, or should he perish?

The filmmakers clearly chose to pose none of these questions, and only Redford’s weather-beaten face (this before he’s even succumbed to punishing sun on the open ocean) separates All is Lost from strict genre film.

Directed by: J. C. Chandor
Starring: Robert Redford
Rated: PG-13

Redford’s performance is very good but without emotion. There are many instances when you would expect him to show more concern or fear, and I think this is on purpose. His character doesn’t even have a name. In the credits he is listed as “our man.” Our man has no inner life or struggle. He’s so staid he doesn’t even have a name. Only once does he really lose control but moments later he returns to an almost robotic state.

Older viewers, who love and identify with Redford, will be the audience for this movie. Gen X and Y will shrug or struggle to make it to the end.

I am caught in between these demographics, and, as such, my feelings were divided. I appreciated the quality of the film and all that went into it, but I lament its inability to speak –much like Redford’s ‘our man’–to me in any more than a superficial way.

About The Author

Randy Steinberg has been a Blast film critic since 2011. He has a Master's Degree in Film/Screenwriting from Boston University. He taught screenwriting at BU from 1999-2010. In 2020, he joined the Boston Online Critics Film Association (BOFCA). Randy can be contacted at his website:

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