Friday, November 29, 2013

All Is Lost

I went to see All Is Lost earlier this week at the Tropic Cinema and I went with a mixture of trepidation and curiosity. I'd seen the trailer a few times and I was curious to see if he survives his sailboat sinking under him - the trailer suggests not. I was also curious to see how well a sailing movie would depict the dark art of crossing water under sail. There was also some trepidation because a) I wasn't sure the movie could hold my interest and b) if it was any good would I get flashbacks to when I had my own problems at sea? Judging by early reviews in the respected West Coast Sailing Magazine Latitude 38 the movie sucks:

From this website we get this review:
November 4, 2013 – Movie Theaters Everywhere


Well, shucks. Hollywood has the chance to really represent sailing accurately — relatively speaking, of course — and it appears they dropped the ball . . . yet again. The debacle that was The Perfect Storm or even the ridiculous 'rescue' scene in Dead Calm were painful enough but now we have another epic fail to add to the list. We have yet to watch the film for ourselves, but reports from sailors are flooding in about Robert Redford's 'tour de force' performance in All is Lost and the reviews aren't favorable.



The one-man show that boast a grand total of approximately three words follows the harrowing trials of a sailor whose boat sinks out from under him in the Indian Ocean. The trailers looked exciting and passably accurate but we're told the rest of the film is a disappointment. "From the moment his boat gets rammed by the free-floating container to the last scene where he decides it would be a good idea to start a bonfire in his WWII-vintage rubber liferaft to create a signal fire," writes Corte Madera's Linda Muñoz, "anyone who has ever gone on a Bay cruise on pretty much any type of vessel would agree that you don't want to go sailing with this guy. He's only adrift for eight days and barely has any food, almost no water, no PFD or lifesaving suit, no GPS or radio, and no flare gun. Redford does his best but unfortunately, the massive number of inaccuracies and unbelievable situations ruins the movie for anyone who has sailed."



Hugo Landecker, who sails his Westsail 32 Alexander out of San Rafael, agrees with Linda. "There were so many mistakes in this film but I didn't have a pencil and paper to record the countless errors. He made navigating with a sextant look so easy! Just wave it at the horizon and voila! You have a plot fix on the chart! There were so many inaccuracies that this serious 'thriller' turned into a comedy for me. My poor wife's arm was bruised by the time the movie was over for all the times I nudged her when there was a mistake. I'm sure non-boaters would enjoy the drama, but after seeing this film, they'll never get on anything resembling a watercraft."

We'd been looking forward to seeing All is Lost on the big screen but after hearing these dismal reviews, we'll just add it to our Netflix queue and pop Captain Ron into the DVD player. It may not be that much more accurate but at least it was meant to make us laugh

- latitude / ladonna

I am very fond of Latitude 38, the best boating magazine anywhere, and when I used to live aboard and sail Northern California, Latitude 38 was the monthly required read. This was before the advent of the Internet yet even in this electronic era the free monthly paper magazine seems to be flourishing. Having said that, I must respectfully disagree with the sailors' comments above. I lived aboard and sailed for a decade, and I in fact sailed to Key West from San Francisco at the turn of the century taking nearly two years to sail to Panama and up the Caribbean side. That was where I met my own couple of storms whose memory this movie so powerfully evoked.
Personally I was astonished by the power and effectiveness of this film and it was in my opinion the best I have ever seen about the sailing life. Let's not forget it is a movie and film makers have to make artistic compromises one way and another so to expect absolute authenticity is unrealistic and, excuse me, a little bit stupid or naïve. Frankly I think sailors are showing off if they want to nit pick publicly about the movie's sailing shortcomings. Robert Redford's unnamed sailor hits a floating container in the middle of the Indian Ocean in a flat calm and he methodically sets about fixing the hole in his boat's hull and trying to repair his radio. The sailor is as calm as the ocean he is floating on but, like the biblical Job, one thing after another goes wrong. It's often said among sailors that one failure will lead to the next and this sailor has clearly pissed off all the gods within range because he gets no breaks. Silently and efficiently he responds to everything that goes wrong with a measured and planned response. It is a mesmerizing performance especially as there are but three pieces of dialogue throughout the almost two hour movie. First, as a voice over, he reads his goodbye letter to his family ending with the haunting phrase "all is lost" and then in flashback the whole nightmarish eight days unravel. During that part of the movie the sailor tries calling on the radio till it dies definitively and the final moment of dialogue comes when he screams a long drawn out curse as he discovers his fresh water supply is tainted with seawater. That's all the dialogue there is and yet the movie is totally absorbing, riveting and the pace never flags.







If you are a sailor and go into this movie looking for nits to pick you will find them. I got completely lost in the story and I had no time to see any of them. I loved how the sailor's boat and equipment was worn and actually looked used. He was a perfectly middle class average sailor just like any of us and suddenly "all is lost." I thought it was a fabulously absorbing drama all the way through. I guess there are a lot of sailors in Key West, or perhaps Robert Redford still has magnetic movie star powers because the theater was almost full when I went to see the film. I'm very glad I did as I cannot get the story out of my head. You should go too whether or not you know how to sail. This film will reward you and put you off sailing!



Richard M said...

Thanks for the review! I'll wait for it to be out on Netflix though. I used to sail through and after school though not to the same extent as you.

dennis cleveland said...

Thanks for the review. I have been wanting to see that movie but was a little nervous about the lack of dialogue

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this review, and for what it's worth, I agree with you. It reminded me a bit of "Gravity": yes, there are inaccuracies and no, it just doesn't matter, because the movie is really good.

Anonymous said...

I am not, not, not, in any way, shape, or form, a sailor. I've never even been *on* a sailboat, and in my 60 years I've been in a rowboat exactly twice.

However, I very much detested this movie because it required me to suspend disbelief.

The two most egregious items for me: (1) WHY did he leave the life raft tied to an obviously sinking boat and then go to sleep? (2) I kept saying to myself, "I know crap-all about nautical stuff, but SURELY there must be a safety device -- some kind of pinger or transponder -- that one could use in a situation like this. Sure enough, it only took this landlubber a short time with Google, beginning with "emergency transponder," to learn about EPIRBs and other kinds of distress radio beacons. In what world would a multi-zillion-dollar craft like the one depicted in this movie not be outfitted with multiple EPIRBs?