Sunday, October 27, 2013

All is Lost -- a movie review

All Is Lost, a film starring Robert Redford, where he utters only one line on screen, is well worth seeing.  Though I had seen some sailors complaining about the movie on various, I decided to see it anyway.

Why?  Sailors are a curious bunch.  Some have little experience, some have crossed oceans, some just happen to own boats that never really leave the marina.  In that spectrum of being a sailor, there is one thing they seem to have in common.  They all have an opinion, be it about anchors, anchoring, dinghy selection (how to spell dinghy), what sails to use, whether to use a drouge in heavy weather, how far to travel off shore when heading south along the pacific coast; it's a continuum of surety in opinions sometime informed and sometimes not.

Translated, this means that ten sailors, when faced with a hypothetical situation, will argue for ten different solutions to that problem.  When faced with the story of another sailor, they will frequently proclaim from on high that their solution is the only one and the other sailors solutions are borne out of ignorance.  It's a function of the fact that not every problem has a single solution and the inherent dick sizing that is brought into the equation.

Such is the case with the sailor (we never know his name in the movie) in All Is Lost.

There are also criticisms of the movie too, for continuity and other reasons.

Let's just leave aside the fact that bashing one of the most decent and realistic sailing movies, even though it has flaws, doesn't exactly support the complaint of, "why don't we see more good sailing movies?  They all suck!"

This movie does not suck.

All Is Lost gives us a pretty realistic portrayal of a sailor facing his death at sea.

Is the sailor perfect?  Does he always make the right decisions?  Is he equipped and practiced enough for the voyage he is currently undertaking?

That decision being; sailing alone, crossing oceans, with times when no one is on watch.

He is not perfect and neither are all his decisions.

We don't know why he is out there in a Cal 40 that looks quite worn and underequipped.

The movie starts off with a calamity that could have been wholly prevented, were someone on watch.

From there we see him quietly, sometimes grimly, solve each problem as it presents itself.

There is damage to the boat, equipment failures, tactical decisions, injuries, some plain blind luck, and rotten luck.

Then again, luck isn't something that just happens to us.  It's the product of our experience, preparedness and mindset.  If we are lacking in some or all of those things, we have bad luck.

The sailor has "bad luck".

Sometimes he is capable and makes decisions I would make.  At other times, I'm not so sure I would take his course of action.  At other times, it's something I clearly would not do.  Then again, I have not been out there.  Since he is in the middle of the Indian Ocean, he got there. That means he's seen and done things that I have not.

The sailor's bad luck doesn't make the movie bad.  It turns his story into a classroom, with lessons piled upon lessons, some of them brutal and direct, some of them subtle and hidden.  It will take more than one watching to get them all.

Is the movie without continuity errors?  No.  Is it the perfect example of a prepared and experienced offshore sailor, facing the ocean with a high level of competence, serving as a perfect example to the public of how we wish to be seen?  No.

That is not a bad thing.

One can pick at the movie.  One can even pick at Redford for his perceived liberalism (yes, some have done so already but that has nothing to do with a man lost at sea).

One thing that is true is that we are watching a man at sea, one who is where most of us will never go, dealing with each turn against him with a quiet determination that most of us would be lucky to demonstrate were we in his situation.

Robert Redford is perfect in this role.

And the lessons...the lessons.  That is why it's worth watching.