All is Lost will no doubt draw comparisons with Gravity, and rightfully so. Both chronicle one persons perseverance through impossible odds in a desolate and hostile environment. Both attempt to create the most realistic representation of their respective environments and the solutions that the characters find to their ever escalating problems. Indeed the two films would make a great double feature. The two films do differ however in how they characterise their protagonist. Throughout Gravity Sandra Bullock vocalises her characters history, thoughts, and feelings, the film consistently makes sure that the audience knows where the character is at every moment. All is Lost takes a very different approach. One that may seem needlessly elusive to some, and impressively authentic to others.
There is a moment in All is Lost where Robert Redford’s unnamed protagonist attempts to make an SOS call. He opens his mouth to speak but he can only manage a raspy cough, his vocal chords being so underused. Redford utters very few words in the course of his journey, and even fewer of which express any emotion (there maybe one or two instances). Instead what we learn about the character is learnt through expressions and Redford’s physical performance. Needless to say the performance is incredible, reminiscent of Colin Firth’s performance in A Single Man, Redford draws the picture of a very stoic man, seemingly un-phased by chaos around him. Throughout, Redford’s expression barely changes, save for in a few clutch moments. It is amazing how much Redford manages to convey with the smallest facial movement, the raise of an eyebrow in a moment of despair tells us everything we need to know about the character.
As the the unnamed characters situation gets more and more desperate, there comes a moment (if we are truly honest with ourselves) where every audience member would have to admit “This is where I would give up.” It may well come at different moments, but it is inevitable. Yet, through all of the soul destroying bad luck, Redford’s character perseveres. The films writer/director J.C. Chandor does an incredible job of pacing the film. For some the film may start off too slow, Redford encounters a few obstacles that he deals with with incredible composure and skill. This however is all set up. Chandor deftly keeps escalating the danger without making it feel forced. All is Lost is certainly tense, but it’s most fascinating aspect is watching a man battle through seemingly hopeless situations time after time, knowing we ourselves would have given up long ago. It is unfortunate then that the ending is rather fumbled, near undermining all that has come before.
All is Lost is not about the ending, it’s about how we got there, and the journey is fantastic to watch. The more rapid pacing of Gravity may be more appealing to some. But when it comes to realism and characterisation, All is Lost is eminently more complex and interesting. All is Lost is unlikely to match the box office success of Gravity, but it certainly deserves to.