All Is Lost, directed by JC Chandor, stars Robert Redford as a man on a solitary journey across the Indian Ocean in a sailboat. His boat runs into a shipping container floating in the middle of the sea, which leaves a gaping hole in the hull, and he must deal with the consequences and survive.
The film is gorgeous, and as always, picking five representative shots was hard. I encourage you to see the film and see each of these shots in context. I should warn you that this post may contain spoilers, if you’re sensitive about that sort of thing.
In shot number one, Redford is asleep in a hammock the first night after his boat was damaged. He hasn’t had time to pump the bilges and water swirls below him as he sleeps – on a rainbow colored hammock, you will note. He is literally inches away from drowning and we have yet to pass the movie’s fifteen minute mark.
Redford’s character is not a happy man. He is stoic and capable, taking everything in stride, even approaching doom. He hears rain pattering on the deck and comes out to feel the water on his skin. This is one of the only times we see him smile. The shot continues as he pulls his sleeves back and washes his arms, staring almost reverently at them. It’s a worshipful moment.
This is one of my favorite shots in the film. Redford’s boat is sinking. We see it slipping under the waves for several seconds before cutting to this shot and witnessing his complete resignation. His hands, normally so active, are hanging lifeless over the side. Given how the camera is placed, close by and slightly below Redford, I think this could have easily been a hopeful moment, but Redford’s expression and posture completely destroy that idea.
A freighter passes very close to Redford one night. He shoots a flare and shouts to gain their attention. This shot emphasizes how fruitless his efforts at being rescued are. Nothing is shown in the frame except the freighter and the flare, and the black distance between them.
There are several beautiful underwater shots in the film, but none have such a variegation of light. The burning raft alone is enough to make this shot memorable.