Director: J.C. Chandor
Starring: Robert Redford
Written by: J.C. Chandor
Running Time: 106 mins
Release date: 26th December 2013
What is it with Hollywood and leaving people stranded. Not two months have passed since we were floating around in space with Sandra Bullock in Gravity but now we are in another vast area, the Indian Ocean with another Hollywood star, nay, legend, Robert Redford, stranded and all alone. Literally. Just Redford and a boat and a whole lot of water. Doesn’t sound as exciting as Bullock’s space adventure? You’d be very surprised and proof that once a massive star of the silver screen, always a massive star of the silver screen.
Alone and sailing his yacht in the Indian Ocean, a man is suddenly awoken with a bang, as his vessel hits an abandoned shipping container, causing a massive hole in his boat. With his communication system ruined by the incoming water, the man has no way of contacting the outside world and has no way of knowing he is heading into a violent storm that, no matter how good a sailor you are, you cannot fight nature and soon the man, with the heat of the sun, sharks circling and only the seas tide to help him, his chances of being found become incredibly slim.
This is a very brave film. One man, very little dialogue and one setting. Can this sustain a feature-length movie and keep audiences attention? Yes it can. Writer/director J.C. Chandor has come up with a simple idea and really run with it. After his previous film, the underrated Margin Call, he proved a talent to keep an eye on. No one expected anything like this and to his credit that it works so well. There are a few moments of flab at the beginning of the film and you do feel like you are watching the day in a life of… but Chandor then throws in a storm and the film moves up a massive notch. From that moment on, the film becomes almost hypnotic. You become almost a passenger and so you are investing emotionally in the outcome.
Helping move the film along is some extraordinarily beautiful cinematography from Frank G. DeMarco and, more notably, the underwater shots by Peter Zuccarini. These shots from underneath the boat are sublime, especially a sequence in which a school of fish circle around the vessel like a giant mother looking over her children.
Then there is Redford. This is a powerhouse performance from a man who has an incredible back catalogue. He has to keep out attention throughout and with hardly a word of dialogue passing his lips, he does this with so much ease that you find yourself willing him along on his solo journey. With just a simple drop of the shoulders, you are sympathetic of his plight when his use of a flare goes unanswered. You long for him to stay afloat as the waters toss and turn him. You also have to remember that this is a man on the verge of being 80, being thrown around like a pancake. Most actors half his age could do what he does in this film. It is an extraordinary role for an extraordinary actor.
This might not be for everyone (quite a few younger members of the audience walked out of my screening) and it might not sound like the most exciting film of the year but give it a chance. It’s tense, touching and incredibly impressive and in a world filled with superheroes and mindless junk, it’s a pleasure to sit through a film that doesn’t have a back story, doesn’t have drawn out explanation, just a man on a boat and fight for survival against the elements.