There is no overt biblical reference in J.C. Chandor’s (Margin Call) All Is Lost, but it’s hard not to think of Robert Redford’s character as the biblical Job, the man who endures one misery after another, with no justification for his pain, or much information as to who he is. Referred to as “Our Man” in the credits, we are given no background on Redford’s character. When we meet him, he’s in the midst of a solo sail across the Indian Ocean. We don’t know for sure if he has a family or a large circle of friends, though an opening monologue, “”I’m sorry. I know that means little at this point, but I am. I tried…” suggests that he has a personal connection to someone.

Moments later, Our Man is plunged into a terrifying fight for his life as he wakes up to find water pouring into the cabin of his 39-foot yacht, the Virginia Jean. The boat has a large hole in the hull, caused by a collision with a wayward cargo container. Springing into action, its clear Our Man is desperate, but hardly defeated. With great skill, he tackles one problem after another, confident that he can get himself to safety.  Even as a bruising storm throws him around as if he were a rag doll, Our Man refuses to yield, fighting against the wind, waves, and his own dying boat, to see another day.

With the Virginia Jean buried at sea, Our Man finds himself in an emergency life raft, armed with a sextant (and a basic book on how to use it), while he tries to guide himself north into the shipping lanes where he might be discovered. A couple of times, there’s hope. He spots ships, but they’re too busy delivering goods to foreign ports to notice his desperate attempts to get their attention.

Redford barely speaks throughout the film’s 106 minute runtime, instead, letting his clenched teeth and facial expressions do the talking. Chandor, using widescreen handheld cameras, keeps the focus directly on Our Man and his struggle. While viewers are free to draw their own conclusions about the story, everything that happens on screen is both plausible and practical—for example, how to get freshwater from condensation. Every shot has a singular focus: survival at sea.

Redford’s performance is powerful; his legendary stillness constantly on display. He is able to masterfully convey Our Man’s subtle victories and failures, while gradually showing signs of unraveling as exposure and dehydration take their toll on his mind, body, and soul.

Presented in the 2.40:1 aspect ratio, Lionsgate has given the film an impressive 1080p transfer. Richly detailed and sharp looking, the open sea shots are pleasant throughout, with a few providing absolutely stunning pops of color. The greenish-gray palette that pervades the film helps to reiterate Our Man’s increasingly desperate straits.

All is Lost‘s lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is simply amazing, even though there’s very little dialogue. The sound design is perfectly nuanced to make the most of everything from Alex Ebert’s occasionally haunting score, to the ferocious onslaught of a life threatening storm.  The sound editors received a well deserved Oscar nomination for their work.

English, English SDH, and Spanish subtitles are included.

The following extras are available:

  • Filmmaker Commentary includes writer/director J.C. Chandor, producer Neal Dodson, and producer Anna Gerb The most interesting aspect are the technical issues Chandor encountered while filming.
  • The Story (HD, 3:45) features interviews with Robert Redford and crew discussing f the film’s plot.
  • The Filmmaker: JC Chandor (HD, 3:17) profiles the film’s writer/director, with Chandor discussing what drew him to the project, and his approach to filming.
  • The Actor: Robert Redford (HD, 4:25) profiles Redford, with interviews.
  • The Sound of All is Lost (1080p; 11:59). A look at the film’s impeccable sound design.
  • Big Film, Small Film (HD, 6:11) A discussion about the middle ground this film stakes out between an independent production and a big budget special effects spectacular.
  • Preparing for the Storm (HD, 7:58) focuses on the huge storm scene and Chandor’s storyboarding process.
  • Digital Copy
  • UltraViolet