Redford takes on the perfect storm in Gravity's water-borne sibling
All Is Lost Blu-ray Review
It’s a crime that J.C. Chandor’s Redford-starring man-against-the-elements survival drama isn’t more frequently mentioned in the same sentence as Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity.The young writer/director’s sophomore feature is, in many ways, the space-set thriller’s water-borne equivalent. It centres exclusively on Robert Redford’s unnamed hero fighting to stay alive against the odds, stuck in the middle of the Ocean, thousands of miles from land, similarly handicapped by a piece of floating debris, and helpless against the weight of an encroaching storm. Drawn from a simple 32-page script, and almost completely devoid of dialogue (a couple of stammered swear words notwithstanding), the film is as much an exercise of pure acting as it is pure filmmaking, and it is a testament to the quality of both the individual – and combined – elements, that the end result is so utterly compelling. And veteran actor – and filmmaker himself – Robert Redford is certainly the man to carry this movie single-handedly.He may be in his seventies, but that doesn’t stop him rising to the task of manning this yacht, and this film, and taking it through hell. Famous for his views on restrained dialogue, Redford tells the story just through the look on his face – and in his eyes – as he forges on, meeting every subsequent obstacle with another piece of ingenuity, and facing each new disaster head-on. With Redford driving the story forward relentlessly, and Chandor shaping a streamlined, efficient, taut and unflinchingly tense human drama amidst the stormy chaos, All Is Lost stands apart from the rest as a prime example of that survival instinct; the human drive to simply stay alive. Indeed, it’s arguably an even purer form than Gravity, leaving this piece competing in the big leagues, despite its lack of grandstanding special effects, relying instead on natural threats and looming mortality to keep the tension unbearable. Simply unmissable.
What is All Is Lost Blu-ray Picture Quality
All Is Lost makes its Region Free UK Blu-ray debut courtesy of Universal, who provide it with a stunning 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation framed in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 widescreen. Detail is excellent throughout, with neither the director, nor the cinematographer – nor Redford himself – afraid of getting right up in that craggy face that the veteran actor can now no longer cover up. Shot very stylishly, key shots divulge a huge amount of detail, from the looming red corrugated iron monolith during the opening sequence to the above-shot down into the yacht, where Redford sleeps soundly whilst water sloshes around on the level below.
All Is Lost makes a stunning UK bow with this Region Free Blu-ray.
Obviously some stylistic filmmaking choices were made which give this film an infrequent, slightly duller edge – the most effects-driven moment almost pulls you out of the movie as a now far-softer-around-the-edges Redford pilots the yacht through a storm – but it’s a credit to the filmmakers that these touches are few and far between; indeed that was probably the only overt use of CG in the whole piece. Digital defects are next-to non-existent, with edge enhancement never an issue, and no obvious excessive DNR application.
The colour scheme is understandably limited by the material, but the palette is resoundingly authentic, so much so that you often get lost at sea, with the deep blue ocean and crystal blue sky slowly transforming into cloudy, stormy foreboding. There are sparks of vibrant colour, from the red container to the stunning sunset ebbing away into the horizon. Black levels are strong and deep and allow for impressive shadow detail. All in all this is an excellent video presentation, demo quality through and through.
How does All Is Lost Blu-ray Sound
All is Lost also stuns on the aural front, the accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track proving exceptional from start to finish. How it accomplishes this with almost no dialogue and with only a fairly minimalistic score design, you might wonder, but it does. Taking its cues from the ambient atmospherics, the film excels in its effects coverage, pulling you into the middle of the ocean – into the middle of a storm – and engulfing you completely in the chaos.
Little score, even less dialogue, All Is Lost’s atmosphere is still simply unparalleled.
From the waves crashing against the bow to the storm brewing in the sky; from the wind beating all around to the muffled sounds as the camera capsizes and spins us underwater, the sound design is exceptional – both precise and nuanced, and powerful and potent, spanning the breadth of the surrounds and drawing welcome input from the LFE channel to lend the effects further weight. It’s ferocious and frenzied, but also quiet and contemplative, mirroring the calm as well as the storm, the isolation and the insanity. You can see why the sound editors earned this film it’s only Oscar Nomination, this is a pitch-perfect accompaniment. Exceptional.
All Is Lost Blu-ray ExtrasIt's such a shame that Universal didn't license any of the significant extras that adorned Lionsgate's US counterpart, stripping it of its most interesting and insightful Featurettes - and of its Commentary - and instead leaving us with a trio of tiny 3-4 minute Featurettes which focus, fleetingly, on the Story, the Writer/Director, and the Star. It's better than nothing, sure, but it's just insulting that we don't get all the Extras that are available out there.
Is All Is Lost Blu-ray Worth Buying
All Is Lost is a powerful piece of survival-drama filmmaking, a one-man show that sees Robert Redford on top form as he weathers the elements and fights, against the odds, just to stay alive. It's every bit as compelling as Gravity, and just as highly recommended.
A Stunning Movie, Stunning Video and Stunning Audio leave this still a blind buy for Region Restricted fans.
Universal's Region Free UK Blu-ray release is certainly the definitive choice for those who are region restricted, but, if you can play Region A-locked releases then arguably the US variation is the one you should aim for - its superior Extras make it worth the extra cost. Still, don't dismay, this is, from an AV standpoint, an utterly demo-worthy release, and whichever disc you pick you, you simply must see this movie.
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