By Steve Fisher
IT BEGINS WITH a voice-over as a man
writes a terse letter, alluding to mistakes
made, apologizing for the life lived. That’s
about all the dialogue we hear for the
entire film, All Is Lost, the riveting
tale of one man’s fight for survival on
a damaged sailboat in the middle of
the Indian Ocean. His name in the
cast list is Our Man. It is the only
name in the list. Only one actor.
Robert Redford is Our Man.
Written and directed by Costco
member J.C. Chandor, the film is a
great example of independent filmmaking at its finest. The Connection
spoke with Chandor by phone as he
drove home from a long day of preparation for his next film, which will
be produced for a substantially higher budget
than the $9 million All Is Lost cost.
“The story is about a person who is just
fighting for another day on this planet,”
Chandor explains about the opening letter’s
brevity. “I did want you to know he had a
family, he had a community. That’s what that
opening letter lets you know. That he’s
not just some aimless wanderer who’s been
doing this for 25 years. He is a person who has
left the community and is trying to prove
something to himself and to his own life.
Beyond that, I’m not sure you needed to know
About the risk of going without dialogue,
Chandor says, “It never felt right to sort of
have him talking to himself openly or coming
up with some [device] … whether it be over-
reliance on voice-over, talking to an inani-
All Is Lost takes you on
an incredible journey
mate object like Cast Away with the volleyball
thing or Life of Pi with the tiger and animals
or whatever it is.”
In an interview with NPR, the
77-year-old Redford said he took on
the role as a test to see if he could
handle all the physical and emo-
tional things in the script. “That’s
certainly what the character is doing
as well,” says Chandor. “In a way,
generationally, he’s a stand-in for
people in the final chapters of their
lives, and as your body starts to give
way, what are you searching for?
What is it you still want to accom-
plish in this world? I think the con-
nection between the character and
[Redford] is integral.”
The challenge was as great for Chandor
as it was for Redford. “We wanted the whole
film to feel like one continuous ribbon,” he
explains. “Once we started breaking down the
film, we had over 500 storyboards; it was a
very intense process.”
Location logistics were complicated.
Chandor says, “Three different boats
mask each other, each one config-
ured and torn apart for different
purposes. The storm sequences were
done in an interior tank, and we were
able to create these massive waves
and have rain and wind.”
The outside tank was about the
size of four or five football fields,
perched over the Pacific Ocean.
Much of the film was shot in the
ocean, including Ensenada, Mexico.
Inset: Robert Redford (right) and director
J.C. Chandor discuss a scene. Above:
Redford’s character, Our Man, struggles
to survive the raging Indian Ocean.
Scan or click
here to watch
a trailer for
All Is Lost.
(See page 5
PHOTOS COURTESY RICHARD FOREMAN
The ship-passing sequences were taken off
of Los Angeles Harbor, and all of the wildlife
and sea life is real—no special effects—from
the Caribbean and the Bahamas.
The underwater things were shot in a
clarity tank, “so it was Pacific water that we
were filtering for two weeks before we
started shooting so it was very, very clear
and you could actually see in. Because once
you start flipping boats upside down in
water, it gets very muddy very quickly from
things that are in the boat,” he says.
“So it was this unbelievably complicated
jigsaw puzzle that, hopefully, when you view
the movie, just feels like a guy in the middle
of the ocean going through all this.” C
All Is Lost will be available on Blu-ray in all
on February 11.