J.C. Chandor, 2013
#14, 2013 Skandies
You would think that after directing Ordinary People, Robert Redford would be a little more conscientious about recreational boating safety.
So, as pretty much every review at the time pointed out, All Is Lost has more than a little in common with Gravity — this time we only have one onscreen character instead of two, and the inhospitable environment he must escape is the Indian Ocean rather than the vacuum of space. Once again the movie consists entirely of the present action — no cutting away, no flashbacks — and in this one, we don't even get any verbal backstory to tell us who this guy is or what he's doing halfway between the Cocos-Keeling Islands and Diego Garcia. And once again I was struck by the vast psychological gulf between "inside" and "outside", even as the physical barrier between them proves very fragile. Below decks, the protagonist's boat is outfitted like a small apartment with a '70s decor, and it's easy to imagine sitting on the couch, surrounded by books and kitchenware, typing away on the laptop we see, with no more thought to what lies outside than I have as I type away on my computer in my small apartment, surrounded by books and kitchenware. Only when a shipping container punches a hole in the wall and water starts gushing in does the location of his little home away from home become more than academic.
While I was looking at reviews, I happened across a clip of Louis C.K. and a couple of cretins from a morning radio show talking about this movie, and holy robots, their objections were inane. One was that the movie was unrealistic because the guy doesn't bring all the latest communications equipment — like, he brings some, but it all gets ruined in the initial collision, which they also objected to, because surely he would have spread it around instead of putting it all on his desk. Criminy. This is your beef? Really? Well, here's a fun fact: when I was working on the Ready, Okay! rewrite, I backed it up onto an SD card, which mostly lived in the SD slot in my computer. So what would happen if my house burned down? Wouldn't I lose both copies? Shouldn't I have kept the SD card somewhere else? Yeah, probably! But I didn't. Because, y'know, people don't always do that sort of thing! You know what else? The last time my car broke down, I had to borrow a cell phone from a random passerby to call for a tow truck, because (DUN-dun-DUNNNN!) I'd left mine at home. Because I often forget to bring it with me when I go out. Now you might object that there's a difference between running down to Breads of India for some naan and setting out on a voyage around the world, and you would have a point. Except I have gone on several road trips across the U.S. and into Canada, and never have I brought a smartphone or a GPS unit — the equivalent of the equipment these guys say should have been on the boat. Why haven't I? Because I've been going on these trips for a long time, and I'm sufficiently used to not having those things that they don't feel like necessities! And the character in this movie is pushing eighty! You really think it's deal-breakingly unrealistic that he might be set in his ways and not have seen a need to stock up on all the latest gear?
But even worse was when our intrepid trio started slagging the protagonist for "giving up" too quickly — for not remaining glued to his dead radio, futilely attempting to broadcast mayday messages, on the off chance that it might flicker back to life again, and for not waving his flares long enough as passing ships disappeared over the horizon, and for not treading water longer when his raft goes up in flames. They also sneered at the mistake that leads to that disaster — that when he starts a signal fire in his empty water container, he lets it grow out of control before he can get the container off the raft. Because it's so very unrealistic that anyone could ever make a mistake, apparently. Especially after living on a tiny inflatable raft in the middle of the Indian Ocean for a week, with no water supply, at age 75+. According to Louie and pals, he should still be tack-sharp. As for giving up too quickly — I mean, isn't one of the themes of the film that his survival instinct keeps him fighting irrationally long? This man is already near the end of his life. Is maintaining a slim chance of extending it by a few percentage points worth subjecting himself to intense suffering for days on end? I mean, it seems to me that most people on earth have been stuck with such a low quality of life that I don't really understand how they avoid giving in to despair. So here we have a starving, dehydrated elderly man, bobbing in the ocean with nothing to hold on to, barely able to keep his nose above water, and, yeah, the idea that he might indeed decide that the time had come to "just die"? I actually didn't find that particularly inconceivable! Hell, if I had to listen to any more of "Opie & Anthony", I'd be ready to join him.