I took a day off this week because I was overtired and grumpy and in danger of hating every movie I saw. I did what I do on most of my days off, which is … go see movies. I know. It’s a sickness. I don’t understand it either.
Anyway, I went to see “All Is Lost,” which is 100 nearly wordless minutes of Robert Redford trying not to die on his boat, which got a big giant hole torn in it by a rogue shipping container. I am no sailor, but I know that big giant holes are bad for boats.
Redford’s character (the credits identify him only as “Our Man”) uses his skills and strength of will to attempt to survive in the middle of the Indian Ocean, which was very impressive because my strategy would have been: 1) Make peace with God; 2) Drink absolutely enormous amounts of alcohol. Step 1 would be optional.
It’s easy for me to think of Redford as a historic artifact, forever trapped in “All the President’s Men” and “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” One time he came to the Post newsroom for some reason; when word got out, absolutely everyone headed over there to see him in the flesh. I’m reasonably certain that everyone’s expression mirrored that of Sam Neill when he first laid eyes on the dinosaurs in “Jurassic Park”: We were seeing something we had assumed was long gone.
“All Is Lost,” though, showcases an immensely talented actor at his best — with nothing to depend on but his face and body, without even dialogue to help him along. He seems to communicate with the audience telepathically; a glance up or a raise of an eyebrow and we know exactly what Our Man is thinking. Woodward and Sundance and Roy Hobbs and Jay Gatsby all disappear and what’s left is a man doing things that many of us had forgotten he could do. Redford’s no dinosaur. He’s a legend.