Critics Hail Director J.C. Chandor's All Is Lost
Robert Redford gives "the performance of his life," says New York Times
WOOSTER, Ohio, Oct. 25, 2013 - J.C. Chandor’s first feature film, “Margin Call,” garnered critical acclaim and an Oscar nomination for best original screenplay in 2011. Two years later, the writer and director, who graduated from Wooster in 1996 with a self-designed major in cultural film studies, is back with “All Is Lost,” a gripping tale of a lone sailor’s battle for survival on the high seas. New York Times film critic A.O. Scott calls it “an action movie in the most profound and exalted sense of the term” and says Robert Redford, the unnamed mariner at the center of the film, gives “the performance of his life.”
Redford plays a man — identified in the script as simply Our Man — sailing alone across the Indian Ocean, who wakes to find his 39-foot boat taking on water after a collision with a shipping container that has fallen from a cargo ship and drifted into his path. With his navigation equipment and radio disabled, he struggles to repair the hull, weather a violent storm, and endure in the hopes of being spotted and rescued by another vessel.
“There are no pirates, no computer-generated animals, no desert island adventure,” writes Elizabeth Weitzman, movie critic for the New York Daily News. “For most of the movie, there isn’t even any dialogue. The score is spare, the action minimal. It’s just a guy. On a boat. For 107 minutes.”
“And every one of those minutes is riveting.”
Betsey Sharkey of the Los Angeles Times calls the film “remarkably skillful, surprisingly insightful and deeply moving. It’s a confident work by an artist who knows himself and trusts his audience.”
Chandor was already working on the script for “All Is Lost” when “Margin Call” had its premiere at Redford's Sundance Film Festival in 2011. A few months later, he sent the actor's agent the completed script, hoping he would be intrigued by a project so radically different. A few days after that, he found himself face-to-face with Redford himself in his Los Angeles office, making his pitch. It took less than 10 minutes for Redford to decide he was in.
“When I met J.C.,” Redford told the Boston Herald, “it was one of those rare situations where you go on instinct. You put yourself very quickly into the hands of someone else because you trust them.”
“What I’m hoping,” Chandor says, “is that this character becomes a vessel where audience members are able to see themselves, or parts of themselves… And if I did my job well, the film, like Our Man’s journey, is going to be exhilarating and terrifying, and, I hope, emotional and haunting.”
Mission accomplished, says the New York Times’ Scott. “Mr. Chandor more than fulfills [Joseph] Conrad’s criterion of artistic achievement: ‘If I succeed, you shall find there according to your deserts: encouragement, consolation, fear, charm — all you demand — and, perhaps, also that glimpse of truth for which you have forgotten to ask.’”