Emerging from one of America's most promising filmmakers, J.C. Chandor's second film “All Is Lost” is a seemingly simple, almost wordless movie with one character. Robert Redford plays a man trying to survive at sea after his yacht crashes into an abandoned shipping container.
The film is a big contrast to “Margin Call,” the complex, wordy multi-character piece set on the eve of the 2008 Wall Street crash, which earned Chandor an well-deserved Oscar nomination for best screenplay.
But Chandor says there was no conscious decision to make his new movie opposite of the last one.
While editing “Margin Call,” he rode a train back and forth between Providence, R.I., and New York. Gazing out the window, he noticed “upper middle class sailboats” and hit upon the idea of a character writing a letter after an accident at sea.
“Essentially, it was an intense, emotional thing, the farewell letter that you hope you never write,” Chandor says. “And then the next 4-5 months became trying to formulate the most fascinating film I could.”
As he looked back at other survival movies, he says he found “a little something off about all of them,” as if they were supported by “crutches.”
“What if you took all those crutches away?” he says. “Do you still have a movie? Would you have a greater emotional response to the work?”
Although “All Is Lost” looks simple, Chandor describes it as an “unbelievably complicated jigsaw puzzle of absurdity.” The film was shot in four oceans as well as studio tanks (the same used by makers of “Titanic”).
“In any one sequence 40 or 50 seconds long, there are probably seven different setups, and they could be on different sides of the continent,” he says.
Chandor’s primary job was to protect his star, and prevent Redford from thinking about technical aspects of the shoot. “He would come on set, he would come into his little zone, and he was that guy,” he says.
“What's so amazing for me is that people come away with this sense of aloneness and solitude, when he was surrounded by at any given time by 150-200 people,” Chandor continues. “He was able to get into these zones of isolation, and it wasn't until editing that I started to realize what he was doing.”
IF YOU GO
All Is Lost
Starring Robert Redford
Written and directed by J. C. Chandor
Running time 1 hour, 47 minutes