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Robert Redford shines in remarkable ‘All Is Lost’

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Somewhere in the Indian Ocean, an old mariner (Robert Redford) wakes up to discover a hole in his boat. We know nothing about this man — his name, his past and why he’s sailing a boat in the Indian Ocean are all a mystery. What starts as having to fix a hole in a boat gradually leads to dealing with a relentless group of severe storms and troubles that puts the man in a fight for his life.

The old mariner’s quest to survive the hurdles nature throws at him makes up the beautifully simple story of “All Is Lost,” writer and director J.C. Chandor’s excellent follow-up to his Academy Award-nominated 2011 hit “Margin Call.” While “Margin Call” was a dialogue-heavy look at the eve of the financial meltdown in 2008, “All Is Lost” does something completely different. With the exception of a voice-over that opens the film and the occasional plea for help, Chandor’s film features no dialogue, instead relying on the actions of the mariner and the film’s visuals to tell the story. The almost primitive nature of Chandor’s script is both smart and refreshing, allowing “All Is Lost” to showcase film as a predominantly visual medium.

In addition to his sparse but intelligent script, Chandor makes “All Is Lost” the powerful film it is through his excellent and assured direction. Making just his second feature-length film, Chandor has proven that he has a strong eye for detail and a great understanding of how to infuse a film with tension. Particularly in the storm scenes, Chandor ratchets up the tension with incredibly authentic sound design and claustrophobic cinematography, allowing for the viewer to feel like they’re fighting to survive alongside the old mariner. In addition to the storm scenes, Frank G. DeMarco and Peter Zuccarini’s cinematography does a great job of capturing the beauty of the sea, with underwater views of fish swimming around providing a brief reprieve from the film’s tense story. “All Is Lost” also features a musical score by Alex Ebert, the lead singer of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. Along with his excellent original song “Amen,” Ebert’s strong and at times subtle music complements the film wonderfully.

As great as Chandor’s crafting of “All Is Lost” is, the film would not work without the magnificent performance of Robert Redford as the old mariner. An icon in Hollywood for his directing and acting, Redford is tasked with carrying the film on his shoulders and making the viewer care for this man of whom they know nothing about, and he does so wonderfully. A performance full of intense physicality and subtle nuances, Redford is wholly relatable as a man doing everything he can to survive. Already an Oscar winner for directing “Ordinary People,” Redford should easily find himself in the running for an acting Oscar this awards season.

Anchored by an outstanding performance by Robert Redford, “All Is Lost” is storytelling at its finest and a true testament to the power of cinema.

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