Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB. USA, 2013. Before The Door Pictures, FilmNation Entertainment, Sudden Storm Productions, Black Bear Pictures, Treehouse Pictures, Washington Square Films. Screenplay by J.C. Chandor. Cinematography by Frank G. DeMarco, Peter Zuccarini. Produced by Neal Dodson, Anna Gerb, Justin Nappi, Teddy Schwarzman. Music by Alex Ebert. Production Design by John P. Goldsmith. Costume Design by Van Broughton Ramsey. Film Editing by Pete Beaudreau. Academy Awards 2013. Cannes Film Festival 2013. Golden Globe Awards 2013. Gotham Awards 2013. Independent Spirit Awards 2013. New York Film Critics 2013. Washington Film Critics Awards 2013.
Combining the brilliance of a director and the confidence of an actor who knows how to fill a movie screen while barely uttering a word (he has about three lines of dialogue in the entire thing) you have an exciting tale of adventure and survival that goes to harrowing extremes. Director J.C. Chandor opens the film with Robert Redford waking up on his sail boat in the Indian Ocean, the body of his vessel pierced by a floating shipping container that was abandoned by its carrier. He repairs the hole as best as he can but then a storm comes; he weathers its dangers but time progresses, luck turns against him and things grow progressively worse, seeing him eventually on a life raft through even more harrowing weather. We enjoy the process of his resourcefulness, as there is barely a situation he is not prepared for, but eventually Redford is overwhelmed by nature and his spirit begins to be affected by the challenges that assault him. All that without words, this is Gravity on the sea, Life of Pi without the silly spiritual stuff and a little bit of the soothing ritualism of Jeanne Dielman to boot. Effective direction, superb sound design and gorgeous photography places you out in the middle of the ocean for a fully transporting effect that grips you until the devastating conclusion. This movie is perfection, and Redford, who has never appeared vulnerable in a movie before, is at the very top of his game.