Actions speak louder than words. I have to open with that because there's about seven words spoken throughout this entire movie. There's a quick voiceover at the beginning that gives us a tiny bit of backstory on the character here in which more words are spoken than the rest of the movie combined. This asks a lot of the actor asked to play the man in this movie. A one man show, I might add. Fortunately for the director J.C. Chandor, he managed to get one of the all-time greats, Robert Redford, to play our man. He doesn't even have a name guys. Nothing. The movie is simple one: watch one nameless man survive in the middle of the ocean for 8 days. Think Gravity, but on a boat. And with no exposition. Yet it is told in an emotionally-gripping and heart-wrenching fashion. If you consider yourself a cinema aficionado, and don't see this movie, you're 100% wrong. Actually 110% wrong. It may not make my top 10 list (not sure yet) but it is definitely one of the best works of cinema from 2013.
First off, acting. Well, just actor, I guess. There is literally no one else in this movie. It's just Robert Redford. Who reminds us why he is one of the best actors ever. All we have to figure out what's going on is what we see on his face and in his eyes. That's it. When he climbs the mast of his yacht and sees a storm coming, you can see his face go through the various stages of survivalist thoughts on how he's going to deal with the disaster coming his way. It is absolutely brilliant, and a travesty that he did not even get nominated for Best Actor. Especially when his "counterpart" character, Sandra Bullock in Gravity, does get nominated for Best Actress. And whereas she has a few (clearly forced) lines of dialogue while she's alone, Redford says nothing when he see the storm coming. His face says it all, saying, "I can't avoid this, so how do I prepare for what's coming?" By the end of the film I was just as invested, if not more so, in Redford's character and his fight for survival as I was anyone else in cinemas this year. Some people may take issue to the fact that he didn't get a back story, but I like that we the viewer is expected to figure out his story. I inferred that he was rich and important in his normal life, and highly intelligent given how much he knows about surviving on the open water.
There is nothing else here, obviously. No flashbacks, no back story, no showing a bad relationship with his daughter, nothing. Just him, his yacht, and his will to survive. And when a giant freight boat (right out of Captain Phillips!) goes right by him and he can't get their attention, it is absolutely heartbreaking. And you can see how deflating that is to him: to be 100 feet from rescue just for it to float away. But then you see the determination to survive return to him. It is truly incredible, as this is all done with his facial expressions. However the fact that there is no backstory is a curse as much as it is a blessing. Because we see nothing of this character's origins, casual moviegoers may not enjoy this movie. You really have to engage throughout the 106 minute runtime. From start to finish. If you don't you will not appreciate this movie nearly as much. Additionally while I may have kind of "bashed" Gravity earlier, it is certainly the better film. And more....entertaining? I guess? I would recommend both in a heartbeat but Gravity is the absolute can't-miss movie of 2013. Hopefully you were fortunate enough to see it in 3D and in IMAX. But you don't need to do that here. It is very well-shot, but seeing it on the big screen won't make a tremendous difference in the world.
In conclusion, this is a wonderful movie. Since it only netted about $6 million at the box office, you probably missed it. But really, I say this one of the better movies of this year. You should see this movie. A simple idea executed brilliantly. And the survival aspects of it? Amazing. Half of the things he did to stay alive I didn't recognize at all. But I trusted that he knew what he was doing. Ah! Is it better than Cast Away? Absolutely. Cast Away is a very good movie, but there's a lot there that doesn't work too. Here, the only things that work against the movie is its simplicity. But if you are ready to fully immerse yourself into a movie for a while, this one is absolutely worth your time. Go see it.
The Critique: A wonderfully simplistic yet powerful piece of cinema. Executed to perfection, this one is well worth anyone's time.
The Recommendation: A must-watch for any fan of the cinema or survival pieces.
Rewatchability: Moderately High
The Verdict: 9/10 Amazing
Robert Redford really deserved an Oscar nod here. It is truly criminal that he got passed over, even more so than Tom Hanks getting passed over for the same spot in Captain Phillips. This is one of the all-time great actors guys. And he's had such a prominent role in the entertainment industry over the years, particularly with the creation of the Sundance film festival. And he has exactly one Oscar nomination for acting in his career. One. And we complain about the lack of an Oscar for Leo.....