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In All Is Lost, Robert Redford stars as the nameless man struggling to survive in a small, broken boat in the middle of the ocean. We don’t know how why he is there; we don’t know where he is going; and we have no idea what the rest of his life has been like. With the film’s minimal dialogue and a very limited set, viewers should prepare for an unusual, edge-of-the-seat experience. This is the very opposite of Life of Pi—there is no magical realism, no philosophizing, no self-conscious cinematography. Where Life of Pi shouts, All Is Lost whispers. And no tiger on the lifeboat is needed to provide an overwhelming sense of dread.

I have no idea what director J. C. Chandor intended, but I came away feeling as if I’d seen an allegory. A man has presumably charted his course and prepared for a journey. Then something happens that is beyond his control. In his small boat on the endless ocean he is suddenly faced with narrowed options and resources.

Those options and resource continue to narrow until he no longer has any control over his destiny at all. Where does that leave him? What does it say about him and the meaning of his life and eventual death? And all the while, in the midst of his struggle, he experiences moments of beauty.

There are some missteps in this film, including some breaches in believability. Some will find the ending less than satisfying. But Redford’s powerful, almost wordless performance makes up for those difficulties, giving us an interesting character in an untenable situation.

This movie isn’t for everyone, but it is meant for the big screen. Try to catch it at the theater before it’s gone. (Lionsgate)

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