Redford in mesmerising solo performance

Published 31/12/2013 | 05:38

'All is Lost' may be the chance for Robert Redford to finally land an Oscar for his acting performance.

Bona fide movie stars are a rare commodity in Hollywood, but Robert Redford has been burning bright for more than 50 years in iconic films including Barefoot In The Park, Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid, The Sting, All The President's Men, Out Of Africa.

Looking back over those performances, it's hard to believe the Californian-born actor has never been feted at the Academy Awards.

Admittedly, Redford collected a statuette as Best Director of Ordinary People, but when it comes to his work in front of the camera, plaudits have been scarce. All Is Lost might be the film to right that wrong.

Written and directed by JC Chandor, whose debut Margin Call was a tautly paced drama set on the floor of a Wall Street investment bank, this lean, nail-biting thriller required the 76-year-old actor to perform many of his own stunts.

He is in almost every single frame and apart from a couple of lines spoken into a yacht's malfunctioning radio, Redford has to convey his stricken character's inner turmoil without uttering a word. The film opens on a July 13, approximately 1700 nautical miles from the Sumatra Straits, with an unnamed sailor (Redford) preparing to surrender his soul to the sea.

'I fought to the end,' he whispers in voiceover, 'I'm not sure what that's worth, but know that I did...'

We glide back in time eight days to find the same sailor midway through a voyage across the Indian Ocean. His 39-foot yacht collides with a wayward metal container, which has been shed from a cargo vessel. The yacht's hull is breached but the captain patches up his craft and continues his journey.

Mother Nature is cruel though, and throws up a storm that batters the boat and leaves the sailor with dwindling food and water supplies. As sharks circle the stricken vessel, the sailor must use celestial navigation to chart a course back to humanity via the nearby shipping lanes.

All Is Lost touches on similar themes to Alfonso Cuaron's blockbuster Gravity - solitude, mortality, the indomitability of the human spirit - albeit without the whizz-bang digital effects.

Redford delivers a mesmerising solo performance. Every emotion is etched on his face and at every heartbreaking turn, we understand the churn of emotions beneath his wind-battered surface. Chandor orchestrates action sequences with aplomb, contrasting the sound and fury of the storm with the eerily beautiful calm of fish moving beneath the yacht.

Cast adrift with Redford on this unforgettable journey, we pray for salvation, even when the last flicker of hope has been extinguished.

'I tried to be strong,' he tells us in voiceover. We try to be too, but tears born of frustration eventually flow.

New Ross Standard

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