There is a Hollywood legend about the financing of the 1977 war epic, “A Bridge Too Far.” It has Producer Joseph E. Levine lunching with number-one star of the day, Robert Redford. Levine tells Redford that for mega-bucks, all he has to do is peddle a boat in one scene. Redford says, “Yes,” and the entire film’s financing is secured.
Now, more than three decades later, Redford is back in a boat. This time, he’s the only one in it….for one hour and 47 minutes of screen time. The film is called, “All Is Lost,” and few actors, besides Redford, could hold audience interest, alone at sea with nothing to say. Other than an opening bit of voiceover, a couple of calls for help, mutterings into a static y radio, and a curse word, Redford is all action without words. He doesn’t even have volleyball (“Wilson”) to talk to, as Chuck Noland (Tom Hanks) has in “Cast Away.”
As the film begins, we find “Our Man” (as Redford’s character is called in the credits) sleeping inside his 39-foot sailing yacht on the Indian Ocean. The boat, “Virginia Jean,” is punctured by a stray shipping container, which spills children’s sneakers. The ocean gushes in, wrecking the radio and electrical system. Our Man jumps into survival mode, epoxy-patching the hole, pumping water and surveying “Celestial Navigation for Yachtsmen.”
Poor Our Man. The time and tide is turned against him. Everything goes wrong. Storms spin Virginia Jean upside down and right-side up. He forgets to cork his drinking water. Huge container tankers coast by, oblivious to him, his flares and his cries. When he finally catches a fish, a greedy shark snatches it away.
All is lost. Robert Redford usually seems like a lucky guy, but as Our Man, it appears his luck has run out.
Until the end, this is ambiguous.
Go see the movie and decide his fate.