Thursday, August 7, 2014

Sail Solo

All is Lost
Director: J.C. Chandor
Cast: Robert Redford
Released: November 7, 2013

Oscar nominations:
Best Sound Editing (lost to Gravity)

Back in 2010, I started reading the blog of Jessica Watson, a 16-year-old Australian who sailed around the world by herself. She started her voyage from Sydney in October 2009 and returned the next year in May. It was really interesting to read her blogs (which took me a few weeks to get through them; after all she had seven months of entries!) She talked about everything from describing how things worked on her boat to writing about her food supply and what she had for dinner and she often put up photos she took. Now while she sailed by herself, she wasn't exactly unassisted as she could call her family or the people who were assisting her with this journey on her radio and she often talked with them everyday. Of course, if she did get in any trouble, it would still be a pretty scary thing because she's out in the middle of nowhere! She roughed a few storms, but she made it home safely. 

While watching this movie, I was reminded of her, although it seems she didn't have as rough of a time as Robert Redford's nameless character...who is the only character in the entire movie. We as an audience don't know anything about him, except he is out sailing the ocean. I presume he's a retired man with a dream to sail the open seas. The film shows us he is an experienced sailor as he is shown doing everyday maintenance with the boat and knows how to pump out the water when his boat becomes flooded (which looks like a tedious and painful process!) 

Redford's character encounters a violent storm which results in his boat turning over a couple times, which, for me, was just scary watching...I can't imagine being in a scenario like that! He has to resort to using his lifeboat with his survival supplies because his boat is ruined and he watches his boat that you know he put a lot of time and effort (and money!) into sink beneath the water as he sits in his raft.  

This is real-life Survivor...there is no Jeff Probst, no tribal council, and no hidden immunity idols! And there is definitely no food reward challenges as he has to ration his canned foods and use his fishing gear in his survival pack. When he sees a large cargo ship, he uses a flair to catch their attention, but it doesn't work. He does this until he only has one flair left which you know is worth life or death. There was one scene where, when he's fishing, a shark pops up and grabs his line and Redford falls back into the raft. I was a little worried, that, excuse the pun, the film was going to jump the shark at this point and have a shark attack which wouldn't fit the tone of the film. Luckily, such a scene didn't happen. There are no attacking sharks, sorry to ruin that for you. We just see a swarm of sharks under his raft at one point, but nothing becomes of it. 

The movie is very sparse on dialogue. The most amount spoken by Redford is at the beginning when he's giving a voice over monologue. We later learn that's what he wrote in a letter he put in a glass bottle that he tossed out for somebody to find. Other than that, the only time he speaks is when he's calling for help on the radio and when he curses when everything goes to hell. And he says the word that anybody would say in that situation! There is something very cathartic about dropping the f bomb when you're really furious! Even with his near-mute acting, Redford gives a very riveting and captivating performance and you definitely feel for him when he is desperate to survive. If you were to ask me, I would have taken out Christian Bale for American Hustle from the Oscar nominees and put in Redford. It's been awhile since I've seen Redford in a movie (I think the last one was the movie he made with Brad Pitt?) and I couldn't help thinking, He looks like such an old man! But he is 77, so he is up there in age! I remember watching All the President's Men in my government class in high school and the girl who sat next to me and I both agreed he was pretty hot "for an older guy", lol.

In elementary school, we all learned the three major literary conflicts: man v. himself, man v. man, and man v nature. The last one is a definite theme in the movie, but I would also say man v. himself is prevalent as well. In the end, it's up to him about whether he wants to survive or not. I won't give away the ending, but it's not an ambiguous one where you're not sure what happens to know for sure whether he lives or dies, but it does keep you guessing to the very end.

I actually think it would be kind of fun to sail around the world...only if I knew what I was doing and only if the weather was perfect the whole way through. (Like that would happen...doesn't it storm in the ocean like 99% of the time?) I think a lot of people would balk at the idea because the solidarity would drive them crazy (even if they did have a phone and Internet access). But Jessica Watson said there was always some maintenance or cleaning to do and she would blog, watch a DVD, or read books in her space time. See, that's what I would like: I have a pile of books I need (and want!) to read, but I don't always have time to just settle down and read them. I would love to have seven months of solitaire just to read books and watch movies and catch up on TV shows. Of course, I'd probably think, This is great! for the first week or so, then I'd probably want to get back to land! 

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