Robert Redford has been a major film-star most of my life. He is now 77 years old, making another famous Robert - Mr R. Brague of Canton, Georgia seem like a spring chicken. I went to see another of his films today - Redford not Brague.
It was entitled "All Is Lost" and was both written and directed by J.C.Chandor. It was a most unusual film in that it contains virtually no spoken words and only one actor - Robert Redford himself as "our man". We never find out why - or what went before in his life - but "our man" is sailing a small but very properly equipped yacht across the Indian Ocean when it is holed at night by a steel container that may have fallen off a colossal container vessel. Interestingly, given my last post, this container spews out Chinese sports trainers.
Redford's character is calm and resourceful. He cleverly patches the hole with resin and nylon cloth but a violent storm swamps the boat and he starts to become disheartened, losing control of his situation. As the yacht sinks he ends up in an inflatable life raft and after a few extremely challenging days manages to make it to the main shipping channel between Sumatra and Madagascar. Frustratingly, two container vessels sail past without noticing his flares.
He has almost reached the very end of his tether when he sees the light of another, smaller boat in the darkness. To attract attention he burns papers in a plastic water carrier that he had previously cut open. The life raft catches fire but the new boat doesn't appear to have spotted him. As he sinks far below the waves in some sort of trance he sees his life raft burning above and then he notices the hull of the boat he'd seen drifting into view.
He swims to the surface and a hand reaches out for his. And that is where the film ends. You ask yourself - did the hand represent rescue and a happy ending after those watery trials and tribulations? Or was it the hand of death taking him to another place?
No oceanic mirages. No remembrances or flashbacks to past times. No mention of family or home. Just one man, "our man" afloat on a vast ocean. It is quite astonishing that such a film could transfix one's attention for almost two hours but it is easy to see what attracted Redford to the role - such a challenge for a lone actor and as "The Guardian" reviewer said, "a strikingly bold and thoughtful film".