We all know Robert Redford too well. We know that, after nearly 50 years on the big screen, Redford the man is not an investigative journalist, a gadabout sidekick or a dark-horse power hitter. He is, however, a mildly eccentric and reclusive celebrity, one who might very well undertake a solo sailing trip around the world. As the only actor in All Is Lost
, he does just that. Then, wood cracks and water rushes in. A shipping container has punched a hole in the hull, destroying the GPS and radio. He does his best to patch the hole, but it’s Redford vs. the world from here on out. The autobiographical parallels are striking, which is perhaps the reason Redford is out of the director’s chair and working with newbie J.C. Chandor, who became a rising star after 2011’s Margin Call
. That movie thrilled with 24 hours inside an investment firm’s meltdown; All Is Lost
does the same with much less. As the storm worsens, though, so do the special effects. The heavy rain is obviously hose-powered and green-screened. But All Is Lost
quickly regains its tension, and it intrigues both as a cinematic experiment and as a vehicle for Redford’s naturalistic acting. Critics who have seen the film as an allegory for capitalism ignore the story’s deep simplicity: That’s a shipping container crashing into Redford’s yacht, not some thinly veiled symbol of consumerism. This is one man, alone, facing death. Redford is playing himself, and he’s not playing around.