J. C. Chandor directs Robert Redford in this survival drama where a lone sailor battles silently against oblivion when his yacht starts taking on water out in the middle of the ocean.
Patient and dedicatedly crafted, this man against the elements parable is technically a marvel. The increasing impossibility of our protagonist’s survival is captured with a deft simplicity. Cinematic storytelling at its purest. Redford is almost dialogue free. Barely emoting. So that a focussed look or a suppressed sigh has to carry the meaning of a 1,000 scripted words. And does. In all honesty this is one of my favourite performances of his. Just for its craggy fragility. By the time shipping tankers pass his derelict craft, uncaring behemoths closer to Lovecraftian beasts than signs of humanity finally reached, you are overawed. As good as it all is though it does become one note very early, you know from start to end you are watching an exercise, a high wire act, that exists solely so it can. A clinical triumph. There’s not much here that’d would bring you back for a second watch. Chandor succeeds in putting his icon through an existential wringer without supporting cast or much dialogue. That in itself is impressive, but in a single journey, no return kinda way.