After the award-winning Margin Call, writer-director J.C. Chandor shifts gears completely for this fiercely detailed one-man survival drama. And Robert Redford gives the performance of his life as a sailor stranded at sea in the middle of the Indian Ocean. It's a riveting adventure that's only weakened by a script that piles so much misery on its hero that we stop believing it could really happen like this.
It all starts when the sailboat Virginia Dean runs into a floating shipping container near the Sumatra Straits. Lone sailor (Redford) patiently repairs the hole and pumps out the water, but is unable to fix his radio or navigational equipment, so he uses the stars to guide him towards safety. But along the way, he runs into a fierce storm that leaves the boat even more damaged. And when things get worse, he's forced to abandon ship and move into his lifeboat. But instead of drifting to a rescue, his ordeal only gets more and more harrowing.
Chandor does a great job at keeping us as focussed as this unnamed sailor, letting us experience everything along with him. The up-close camera work and astonishing effects make everything viscerally involving (riding the boat as it rolls in the storm is breathtaking). Although there's a point where we start to wonder what God has against this poor man, because what he endures is a bit too extreme to be true. Thankfully, Redford gives a beautifully grounded performance as a man who refuses to panic, meticulously addressing each successive calamity. In a virtually wordless performance, his tenacity gets deep under our skin.
Intriguingly, the film has a lot more in common with Gravity than Life of Pi. Rather than languish in the beauty of the ocean, this is a story about raw survival instincts, specialist skills and the resilience of humanity in the face of natural forces that seem determined to kill them. Indeed, this man's life depends on his own resilience and ingenuity. So while the film holds us in its grip with bravura moviemaking, it leaves us feeling hopeless in the face of nature. And afraid to climb on board a sailboat.
Run time: 106 mins
In Theaters: Thursday 7th November 2013
Box Office Worldwide: $6.1M
Production compaines: Before the Door Pictures, Washington Square Films, Black Bear Pictures, Treehouse Pictures, Sudden Storm Productions, FilmNation Entertainment
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
IMDB: 6.9 / 10
Director: J.C. Chandor
Producer: Neal Dodson, Anna Gerb, Justin Nappi, Teddy Schwarzman
Screenwriter: J.C. Chandor
Starring: Robert Redford as Our Man
Also starring: Anna Gerb