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    All Is Lost Blu-ray Review

    Blu-ray Lionsgate

    Feb 02 2014 02:47 PM | Matt Hough in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
    Alfred Hitchcock often spoke about the best moments in his films as being “pure cinema”: that uncanny combination of photography, editing, and wordless acting that manages to convey story, establish mood, and generate suspense for the viewer. J.C. Chandor’s All Is Lost is perhaps the best recent model of pure cinema. It’s a virtually wordless suspense picture as one man fights for survival against overwhelming conditions, and its combination of photography, editing, and a marvelous solo performance certainly make it unique among most of the films of 2013.

    Title Info:

    • Studio: Lionsgate
    • Distributed By: N/A
    • Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
    • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
    • Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 5.1 DD
    • Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish
    • Rating: PG-13
    • Run Time: 1 Hr. 46 Min.
    • Package Includes: Blu-ray, UltraViolet
    • Case Type: keep case
    • Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
    • Region: A
    • Release Date: 02/11/2014
    • MSRP: $29.99

    The Production Rating: 4.5/5

    A man (Robert Redford) in his seventies is awakened on his comfortable sailing vessel in the middle of the Indian Ocean when a runaway steel cargo container rams into the side of his ship puncturing it and letting in ocean water. Patching the hole and bailing out his ship takes some time and tests his patience, but he manages to get it done just before a horrific storm blows in and practically turns his boat into kindling but not before ruining his already damaged radio equipment and injuring the man tossing him around the inside of the cabin. There is a life raft on board which the man knows is his last chance, but even it proves problematic with a slow leak, sharks circling underneath, and yet another storm approaching.

    Director J.C. Chandor’s script is a marvel of construction allowing us at every moment to stay with our only character and go through the same step-by-step methods in attempting to fix things, protect himself, and, of course, eventually, resort to clawing and scraping for survival. We’re never given a backstory on this man; we don’t know if there are loved ones waiting for him somewhere, nor do we have any indication of how long he’s already been at sea. The focus is purely on the struggle to stay alive with nothing else seeming to matter. After the original bizarre accident with the steel container, things only momentarily seem to be righted before they go from bad to worse for the unlucky sailor. Chandor makes sure his camera goes above, below, and beside our protagonist to keep us apprised at every moment of progress (or the lack thereof), and as one rescue attempt after another comes to naught (even passing ships either can’t see or deliberately ignore flares), our frustration mounts along with the hapless seaman's. The first storm at sea, ominously glimpsed first in the distance as the sailor is at the masthead trying to reattach a radio connection, is the film’s real showcase moment, an eye-opening and edge-of-the-seat sequence that finds the man sealed inside his patched together vessel and literally tossed around helplessly as the ship does a complete 180° turn under the water. Later bravura sequences don’t quite top this one, but they’re all unique and yet completely viable as time begins to run out, options become fewer, and hope becomes a distant memory.

    Robert Redford’s virtually wordless performance (a dozen or so lines at the beginning as the man writes his last words – the remainder of the film is an eight-day flashback, a mayday broadcast which comes to naught, and a single word curse of frustration about halfway through his ordeal) will be the stuff of legends in the years to come. He’s flawless throughout, a believably seasoned sea veteran who coolly handles problems until they become almost insurmountable and yet even then never strives for sympathy from the viewer as he prepares to die with dignity. Though the work was overlooked by the Academy voters, the New York Film Critics honored it as the year’s best performance by an actor. It is certainly one of his career highlights.

    Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA

    The film is presented in its original 2.40:1 theatrical aspect ratio in 1080p resolution using the AVC codec. Sharpness is outstanding and consistently presented, and color is not overdone but is just right. Flesh tones on Redford are natural, and as the days pass and he gets more wizened, his complexion, both sunburned and yet sallow, becomes literally alarming. There’s some odd contouring during some sea horizon shots at the very beginning and a little inconsistency in contrast occasionally, but these aren’t serious matters. The film has been divided into 16 chapters.

    Audio Rating: 5/5

    The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix is one of the year’s most unusual, most involving, and most impressive. The creaks and groans and bumps of the boat and its equipment get filtered through the soundstage early on, and as the weather gets treacherous, so, too, does the sound mix gain in intensity and verve. You’ll be right in the midst of the monsoons with Redford during the film’s two primary storm sequences, and the passing ships pass right through the soundstage as well. Alex Ebert’s very spare music threads nicely through the film without ever being used for primary emphasis. The few words which are spoken are delivered crisply in the center channel.

    Special Features: 3/5

    Audio Commentary: director-writer J.C. Chandor and producers Neal Dodson and Anna Gerb share the commentary track with the men providing most of the comments on the shooting and problems encountered along the way.

    Four EPK Featurettes (HD): these four brief featurettes present writer-director J.C. Chandor, producers Neal Dodson and Anna Gerb, star Robert Redford, production designer John P. Goldsmith, directors of photography Frank G. DeMarco (above water) and Peter Zuccarini (underwater), film editor Pete Beaudreau, and sound mixers Steve Boeddeker and Richard Hymns praising the camaraderie and team spirit that went into the making of the film:
    • The Story (3:45)
    • The Filmmaker: J.C. Chandor (3:17)
    • The Actor: Robert Redford (4:25)
    • Big Film, Small Film (6:11)

    The Sound of All Is Lost (11:57): sound mixers Steve Boeddeker and Richard Hymns as well as director J.C. Chandor and producers Neal Dodson and Anna Gerb discuss the importance of the construction of the soundtrack for its two major storm sequences and the use of music in specific places.

    Preparing for the Storm (7:58): writer-director J.C. Chandor discusses his detailed use of storyboards for the entire film but for the storm sequences in particular (shot in a variety of locations with three different boats). He also shows some behind-the-scenes test footage shot with underwater D.P. Peter Zuccarini playing Redford’s role before the beginning of principal photography, and shows the layering of special effects to get the finished look for the storm sequences.

    Promo Trailers (HD): Mud, Margin Call, Much Ado About Nothing, Emperor, and The Conspirator.

    Ultraviolet: code sheet enclosed in the case.

    Overall Rating: 4.5/5

    A gripping tour de force for Robert Redford and one of the most suspenseful films of 2013, All Is Lost is simplicity itself: an independent small film that has big ideas about man’s survival instincts with one of the most impressive and least showy writing and directing achievements of the year. Highly recommended!

    Reviewed by: Matt Hough
    Support HTF when you buy this title:


    Thank you for the review, Matt. This is a film I have great interest in seeing. I had forgotten to pre-order, but following your review added it to my Amazon cart. I have been listening to the score this past week and it is very, very good. I can only imagine how well it works in the film, but even outside of its association with the images, it is urgent and moving.

    It'd be great if Redford did an audio commentary for anything. He's a filmmaker himself and I have no doubt he'd have a lot of useful insight into the production.

    Without the Oscar nomination there's a great chance that this film is simply going to be forgotten like it was in theaters.  Hopefully a decade or so now more people will discover it.  Whenever people complain about remakes, sequels and unimaginative Hollywood, I'm always going to ask if they checked this movie out.

    The lack-of-theatrical-popularity on this title surprised me. When I did manage to find a theater that was showing it, it was 20 miles away and I live in a populated area with many multi-screens that are closer. 


    I would agree with Mr. Redford's comments after the Oscar nominations that All is Lost's distributors handled the marketing badly and that there should have been more of an effort to get it into more theaters. 

    Regardless, I'll certainly get the Blu-ray because it is a fantastic movie.

    I was positive Redford would get an Oscar nomination and was shocked when he didn't. Proves what a great year 2013 was for acting when his performance didn't make the top five. Great film and hopefully will find an audience on home video.

    Finally, a movie the whole family can watch without anybody asking to turn on the subtitles.

    This title has been available on iTunes for rental the past couple of weeks and it has been doing pretty well.

    And Redford carried the movie on his own; Bullock got a little help from a friend in Gravity. Not belittling her accomplishment. It's just that every time I read that Bullock carried the movie on her shoulders I can't help thinking of Redford being even more alone, and with fewer lines to tell his story.

    Matt's review and the other comments here have convinced me. Into my Amazon basket it goes.

    I was positive Redford would get an Oscar nomination and was shocked when he didn't. Proves what a great year 2013 was for acting when his performance didn't make the top five.Great film and hopefully will find an audience on home video.



    We were completely shocked there was no love for Robert Redford.  I have a hard time separating the marketing of the movie from the perception of the movie (slow, boring, old).  Was it really there were five other, better performances or was it that voters chose to spend their time with flashy, high profile films like Wolf of Wall Street, American Hustle, etc.?


    The cynic in me says it's the latter, not the former.

    Loved this movie.  The best film I've seen on the big screen in some time. 

    Liked it way better than 'American hustle' and 'Captain Phillips' by a mile.  I also feel Redford was criminally ignored for Oscar consideration. His near silent performance conveys so many strong emotions that words can't easily display.

    anyway, great review Matt.  this was a no brainer of a purchase for me, but good to know you think highly of it