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.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 5.1 DD
Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish
Run Time: 1 Hr. 46 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, UltraVioletkeep case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 02/11/2014
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.
The Production Rating: 4.5/5
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.
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.
Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA
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.
Audio Rating: 5/5
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.
Special Features Rating: 3/5
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.
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!
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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