Saturday, March 8, 2014

All Is Lost Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Sean Ferguson
Hailed as one of the year’s best films by critics everywhere, the survival drama All Is Lost has made its highly-anticipated debut on Blu-ray (plus Digital HD UltraViolet), DVD (plus Digital UltraViolet), and Digital HD from Lionsgate Home Entertainment. In a role that is without a doubt one of his finest, Academy Award winner Robert Redford (Best Directing, Ordinary People, 1980) delivers a commanding solo performance as a man who must battle to survive after his boat is wrecked in the open seas. Written and directed by J.C. Chandor, the Oscar-nominated writer of Margin Call, All Is Lost is an enthralling story of one man’s courage and perseverance against all odds.

Film (5 out of 5 stars)
All Is Lost is one of those rare movies that come along that reminds you of the power that film can have on audiences. This is film in its purest form, with hardly any dialogue and only Robert Redford, a boat, and the ocean to entertain us. In a role that reminded me very much of the one he played in Jeremiah Johnson, Redford stars as "Our Man" who also has to survive mother nature at her worst. When the film opens, he's already been seemingly beaten and distraught. He is in the process of leaving a final note saying, "I'm sorry. I know that means little at this point, but I am. I tried. I think you would all agree that I tried. To be true, to be strong, to be kind, to love, to be right, but I wasn't. All is lost."

The film then flashes back to eight days earlier when Our Man is woken up thanks to the water that's flooding into his boat, the Virginia Jean. When he goes up on deck, he see that his boat has collided with a large shipping container that has fallen off a cargo ship and has punched a hole into his boat. He immediately goes into action to save his boat and we start to realize just how handy he is. He ties a sea anchor to the container and then separates the two and steers his boat away. He then begins the process of patching his ship and then carving a piece of wood so he can use it as a handle for his bilge pump.

Once the water has been pumped out of his boat, he goes below to discover that his situation is even worse than he originally believed as his navigational and communication equipment no longer work. He tries to salvage the radio by pouring fresh water inside them to remove the salt water and then connects it to one of the yacht's batteries. At first that doesn't work but later he hears the radio start to work and he tries to transmit a distress call but the battery dies before he reaches anyone. Determined to make it work, he climbs up the mast and discovers that the antenna is disconnected. While up there, he also can see a massive storm headed his way. Unable to avoid it, the storm overwhelms him and he is thrown overboard but manages to get back on it but by the time it's over his mast is broken, the equipment is destroyed, and his boat is sinking. From this point forward it's a race against time as he struggles to survive impossible odds in his fight against nature itself. 

Robert Redford is simply fantastic in this film and it's a performance that reminds audiences of why he became a star in the first place before he decided to spend more time behind the camera directing. This is a performance that doesn't have a false note in it and it's one without any kind of vanity. This is a character driven film that doesn't rely on special effects or stunt casting to make it work. This movie is stripped down to the most basic elements and it's all the better for it. We don't get to see movies like this much anymore and it's a shame that Redford and the film weren't recognized more for it. It's a shame since this is a very smart and economical film and one that doesn't dumb things down for the audience. All Is Lost keeps audiences on their toes as we have to figure out the various ingenious ways that Our Man tries to survive since there's no dialogue or voiceovers to make it easier. That approach is a breath of fresh air and the film's deceptively simple premise is really a meaningful examination of man versus nature and the concept of maintaining hope when there's no hope to be found. This film is a brilliant testament to the human spirit and it provides Redford with his best role in decades.
Video (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)
Lionsgate Films has delivered a beautiful looking 1080p (2.40:1) transfer that benefits from the film being filmed with the Arri Alexa camera which offers a very sharp picture. There's a nice amount of detail on display especially during close up shots. There's not a lot of color to be found but what is there looks distinct and accurate. Flesh tones look realistic and natural and the black levels are solid and inky. This is an excellent presentation that fans will enjoy.
Audio (5 out of 5 stars)
All Is Lost's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is reference quality despite having no dialogue or a traditional music score. You may be wondering how that could be, but let me assure you that this lossless mix offers a flawless experience that's so good that it's surprising. This mix's all encompassing sound is delivered across every channel which puts the viewer into the center of the action along with Our Man. Wind ruffling the sails, the ocean waves lapping against the boat, or the roar of the storm are all delivered with precise accuracy and combine to create an incredible amount of immersion. This is an amazing mix that adds a whole new level of verisimilitude to the film and makes you feel that you are there with Our Man. 
Extras (3 out of 5 stars)
I really hoped that there would be more extras than this. I enjoyed these supplements but they are all fairly short and there is so much more that I would have liked them to cover. I also would have liked to hear more from Robert Redford who is a legendary actor and director who could have provided a lot more insight into the movie and why he got involved with it. All of the extras are in high definition.
  • Filmmaker Commentary - We hear form writer/director J.C. Chandor, producers Neal Dodson, and Anna Gerb who talk about the challenges of filming the movie and working with Robert Redford.
  • The Story - At just under four minutes long, this extra features Robert Redford talking about the plot of the movie. It's interesting but way too short.
  • The Filmmaker: JC Chandor - Another short bit that profiles the film's writer/director JC Chandor who talks about why the idea of the film interested him and why he made it.
  • The Actor: Robert Redford - Actor Robert Redford is profiled and it last a little bit longer. We learn more though interviews. Again, this would have been a lot better if it had been longer.
  • The Sound of All is Lost - The longest featurette on the disc at just under 12 minutes, this extra covers the film's amazing sound design. 
  • Big Film, Small Film - A look at how this film straddles the line between being a small independent movie and being a big studio release. 
  • Preparing for the Storm - An almost eight minute look at the massive storm scene and how Chandor likes to prepare to film it. 
Summary (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)
All Is Lost is a very easy movie to recommend especially when the Blu-ray for it is so good. Robert Redford delivers a performance that should have been Oscar nominated and this Blu-ray is also top notch. The video and audio quality are impeccable and the only weak area to be found are the limited extras that should have been extended and added to. This Blu-ray is heavily recommended!

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