There were a couple parts of the movie that I didn’t like at all, and found more than a little unrealistic. While traversing the shipping lanes, two (!) ships fail to see his signal flares, including one that passes less than a few hundred yards from his position at night. This is highly unlikely, since big ships have lookouts posted – especially at night – to keep an eye out for things the computers that run the behemoths can’t see.
I also wasn’t a fan of the ending, because it left Our Man’s fate somewhat uncertain, at least to me. It certainly wasn’t the clear-cut, ‘here’s the end of the story’ moment that it should have been. I loathe movies like that. Films like Cube, for instance, or Inception, which “let the viewer figure out their own ending to the story.” Please, if you don’t end your story, then you’ve haven’t told a story – you’ve told part of a story. You’ve been a lazy story-teller. As an author, I find this pretentious and annoying.
My friend and fellow author Ania Ahlborn — go read all of her books, seriously — pointed out to me a few things about this film: it’s pretty bleak, through most of it; most humans would talk to themselves, either literally or more figuratively (a la ‘Wilson’ from Tom Hanks’ Cast Away), and she agreed with me about the ships. I hadn’t originally compared this film to Hanks’ blockbuster, if only because he doesn’t end up on an island. Ania brings up some good points, though. With Cast Away, Hanks gives us a few little victories here and there (finally making fire, fixing his tooth, learning to fish, etc) to break up the overwhelming adversity he’s subject to. We only have one of those in All Is Lost, rendering the balance of the movie more than a little dark.
I’m fairly certain I would start talking to myself, as Hanks did, but Our Man in this film doesn’t — not a word. Whether that’s because (as I posited) with his age, he’s said all he needs to say, or he’s just a naturally quiet and self-reliant person, we don’t know, and never find out. The other thing to consider is that we don’t see every single second of his life during the ordeal, so it could be that he is doing some talking, just not while we’re watching. It’s an interesting comparison between the two movies, but I don’t think All Is Lost is any lesser for it.
I was reminded during the discussion of an episode of Survivorman, “Lost at Sea,” wherein Les Stroud (the titular ‘Survivorman’) is set adrift in an inflatable raft and left to fend for himself for a week. It was, if memory serves, one of the two times Les had to be rescued by his safety crew during the filming of the series. The conditions were harsh at best, and deadly 24/7. I felt like I was watching a fictionalized version of that episode, and it was just as nervewracking and disturbing.
All that said, I still thought the bulk of the movie was good enough to warrant a 4th star, bringing it up from the mediocre 3-stars it would’ve been otherwise. Redford is masterful in his portrayal of the resourceful lead, and as usual, manages to find a way to make the audience feel exactly what the character feels, to bring us along for the ride. And it’s one helluva ride, and well worth the ticket price.
Just make sure to bring your life preserver!