It's only been a few weeks since the film Gravity hit theaters. Its setting in outer space seemed an obvious choice to have disaster strike and convey the terror of being utterly alone, helpless, and without any device to deliver an S.O.S. message. Unless of course, you consider the remoteness of the Indian Ocean, first in a sinking yacht, then in a failing raft as Robert Redford does in the new film All is Lost, written and directed by J.C. Chandor.
There are many films that explore the natural calamities of shipwrecks: lack of water, food, shelter, direction, exposure to sun, sharks, storms and the apparent blindness of any passing cargo ship. All is Lost neatly illustrates each of these in its compact 106 minutes. What is truly remarkable is that aside from a very brief introduction, there is virtually no dialogue. None of the careful narration that carried the story of a boy and his tiger in The Life of Pi, nor any plot device like Wilson, the anthropomorphic volleyball of the film Cast Away. The comparison is not meant as derision, I loved both of those films. But imagine in the case of Cast Away, if writer William Broyles Jr. just let the audience watch Tom Hanks figure things out organically, without Wilson, without any expository dialogue. Despite the lean writing, Redford is able to make a boat patch job or collecting fresh water compelling stuff.
All is Lost is nearly a silent movie. Like the silent films at the dawn of film creation, Chandor confidently tells his story with great faith that the audience will gasp and recoil and breathe a sigh of relief at all the right moments.