Who needs another „All is lost“ review some 10 years after the movie came out? Maybe that´s what you think starting to read my article. Well, the fact that you even started to read means that there is something about that film worth looking at, won´t you agree? I must admit I haven´t seen the movie up until now. I got spoiled and was staunched all the years because most of the people I spoke to about the film told me it wasn´t worth it: Unrealistic, boring, illogical and far off. Those were most of the verdicts. Well, yesterday I thought it might be a good idea to finally make up my own mind and I streamed the film.

Redford as single-handed sailor

After a relatively short runtime of just 106 minutes – which I found refreshingly short and condensed for such an ordeal “our man” has to endure, I said to myself: “Well, I need to make a review of “All is lost” because, frankly, I would say this is one of the best fictional sailing movies I have seen so far!” And here we are, let´s board the 39-footer and watch a well-aged Robert Redford in a dramatic, drastic and absolutely realistic film that comes in as an intimate theater play. And touches your innermost.

A role model skipper

Speaking of Redford, I must say that his acting performance is so stunning that I can´t barely find words. He is so convincing playing an old salt, calm, quiet, determined, that I almost applauded after the credits started to roll. Starting as a cool, maybe a bit depressed and lonely sailor, some 1.700 nautical miles away from Madagascar, sailing alone in his beautiful boat, his portrayal of a sailor nails it 100 per cent, I´d say.

Calm, controlled and systematic

This man keeps it calm. Always knows where to find what, has always a Plan B and stays cool even when shit started to hit the fan. Step by step, like a pro, he unreels a series of actions to take in order to react to the events. Constantly challenged by everything bad that can happen on a boat: A collision with a big leak, electric and electronics short-circuted, bad weather, storm and a full-fledged capsize. Followed by injury, dismasting and finally being forced to leave the sinking boat. Redfords clearly portrays a skipper who knows what he is doing, who is sailing for many, many years, who knows every nook and cranny of his boat and – best of all – who knows that yelling, crying, cursing and desperation won´t do anything. He just keeps on reacting absolutely professionally.

Far fetched story?

This of course does not mean that the decisions are always right. It also doesn´t mean that the safety equipment aboard is working perfectly. I mean, if everything would have been “by the book”, our man had just put the EPIRB to life and 24 hours later a helicopter or a search plane would have arrived. But he apparently didn´t had one at hand. So, if critics that this was unrealistic, well, isn´t it so far fetched that out of everything an EPIRB is not aboard? I would say that this can happen.

Mostly accurate depiction of sailing

Also, filling in fresh water in anticipation of the sinking of his yacht but forgetting to check that all locks are fastened and forgetting to do so, is absolutely realistic. I mean, this situation is an existential threat to his life and everybody who is a sailor can at least sense the level of stress he is in. And with stress, almost as sure as night follows the day, is making mistakes. I would not follow the critics who claim that the situation is unrealistic – on the contrary, I find it all very, very realistic. Just two minuses here: The whole stellar navigation thing is indeed portrayed extremely shortened and easy to serve the plot. Also, after our man is washed overboard just held by the life belt, climbing back so fast and easy is a bit off. But maybe he receives bear-like powers in this extreme situation?

Another capsizing!

I also want to emphasize that “All is lost” is one of the very few sailing movies with great and realistic effects. Especially the sailing scenes (starting with the right way to use a winch, tacking, steering and such) and the storm scenes are brilliant. What a difference to the green-screen overkill and cheap effects of other movies which partially ruin the whole experience! Both CGI and practical effects, like the wonderful chilling portrayal of a capsize event, are on spot and among the best I´ve ever seen in a movie.

Great acting & gripping

Robert Redford, at that time 77 years old, is brilliant. He is absolutely convincing and delivers an outstanding performance. The physical endurance both of the shooting of this movie, which had taken place in the Bahama Islands, California and studios in Mexico and of the character of the skipper must have been an ordeal for a man of that age. In this, I bow down to Redford for this exceptional theatrical achievement. But it is not just the physical aspect.

Calm in the face of pure horror

The art of Redford is to show the subtle dismemberment of the character. At first, when the container struck the boat and ripped her hull wide open, he is cool, calm and very systematic. Almost no emotional reaction, not a single word spoken. Like a cold robot the skipper takes step by step to solve the problems. The more his boat is punched and breaks up, the more this cold-blooded professionalism crumbles – but not all too much. Redford allows his character only tiny mini-steps of degradation. Small hints that everything breaks down. A subtle mimic, a moan, a glimpse of an eye. So slight, so minimal – but I assume so hard to play.

One of the best sailing movies

Even when our man accepts his faith after his last futile try to attract help, even when he lets go and slips away down into the dark abyss of the ocean, there is no despair, no panic, no “loud” acting. In this, Redford – and that is my personal opinion – portrays an absolute role model of a skipper for me. This movie does show what sailing is about: The beauty of silence, the awe-inspiring powers of nature, the beauty and the horror of the Ocean. A small and simple story but a world full of things to discover.

What a sad sight!

I don´t understand why I refused to watch “All is lost” for so long. Most of the bad reviews and dismissive opinions of other people about that movie are, from my point of view, not based. I would go a step forward and say that this film is one you can easily watch a second or a third time as it is full of so many details and hints that there are new things to discover each time you watch it, just like it is the fact with “Das Boot” for example. What a great movie!

My assessment is a rarely given 10/10

You might also be interesting to read these articles:

What makes a good skipper? Parts 1 and 2

First time skipper: Serious business

A chain of bad choices: My first grounding