Mary: I saw another film with little to no human interaction recently, Die Wand (The Wall), but the empty space is filled with voiceover conveying the woman's thoughts and mindset. Prior to seeing All Is Lost, I knew it would involve very little human interaction—I mean, Robert Redford's the only person listed on IMDB for the cast and the script was only 32 pages long—but I assumed it might follow the same pattern and involve more voiceover. Having seen the film though, thank goodness they didn't do that. It was so powerful to just watch him struggle and feel like we were in the moment with him instead of removed and looking back on the moment from the future. Did you expect a voiceover? Would you have liked more of that?
Emily: Well, the first time I saw it I really didn't know what to expect; all I knew of the premise was that Robert Redford's character was lost at sea. I'm glad there was no voiceover throughout the movie, and feel that I was fully able to understand what was going through his mind and why he was taking specific actions. He seemed to be very methodical and logical which helped with understanding his motives. It also really speaks for Redford's acting skills in that using almost no words, he allows the audience into the character and brings you along for this suspenseful ride.
Mary: So you enjoyed Redford’s performance overall?
Emily: Oh I thought he did a fantastic job. I was also shocked to find out he was what, 72 when he filmed it? I also want to mention the cinematography because it was gorgeous. The far shots of the ocean and the storm, the underwater shots, and the moments where you were seeing through his eyes really blew me away. What's your take on the aesthetics?
Mary: Yeah, Redford was 75 during the filming and he performed all his own stunts—incredibly impressive yet crazy. And the cinematography was absolutely beautiful. My favorite shots were the few where he was in the water. They had a really cool way of conveying the confusion of the moment while not making me sea sick with a shaky cam. What did you think of that part? That the film was mostly crisp instead of shaky?
Emily: Yeah, definitely preferable to the "found footage" style. One moment that comes to mind is when the camera is level with the waves, and alternates between above and below the waves and the sound oscillates between noisy and chaotic to serene and peaceful. I also want to talk about the very end. Can we do that? Spoilers?
Mary: Yeah, we can do that. SPOILER ALERT: STOP READING THIS NOW IF YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW THE ENDING. Proceed, Em.
Emily: Well basically I want to know your take on it. What do you think happens? Why do you think that?
Mary: Well as you know I reacted pretty strongly to the ending. The fact that he'd resigned himself to death enough to float so far downward without instinctively fighting to stay alive in the water yet suddenly had enough energy to swim upward when he saw the boat, combined with the hand and the flash of white… I definitely think he passed away. This wasn’t meant to be a film about a man being miraculously saved from dying at sea. The story felt more real, more tangible throughout the film so there's no indication the filmmakers would deviate so strongly at the end. What do you think?
Emily: The way it's shown, with Redford trying and failing to attract attention and get help from two passing barges, is extremely frustrating and disheartening, to say the least. Then he sees a light in the distance and lights his raft on fire and consequently, ends up drifting downwards to his death. You see a hand reaching down to grab him, then a quick flash of red followed by a burst of white light. So yes, I agree that he didn't survive.
To me, the whole movie was about fight for survival. He does everything he can to stay alive, and there are times when it seems as though he's going to succeed. Yet despite his efforts, his attempts were futile and he dies in the end. The reality of this transfers to all humans; no matter what we do, or how hard we try to fight it, we will all die in the end.