Why Robert Redford's 'All is Lost' is hard to watch....

Hello All!

So Dave and I finally sat down to watch Robert Redford's 'All is Lost,' a film about a man on a CAL 39 in the Indian Ocean who faces any cruiser's nightmare, a collision with a sea container.  It is a fantastic story idea.  We haven't seen a good sailing film in a while, so we were really looking forward to this one...yet in the first five minutes we were already frustrated by the film, which clearly did not involve any cruiser advise before or during the making of this film.  While the film is utterly frustrating, it is a great lesson on what NOT to do in situations of crisis.

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NOTE: SPOILER ALERT! Don't read on if you want the element of surprise while watching the film (although, the title kind of gives it away already).

In the opening scene, we see Redford sleeping in the v-berth of his CAL 39 (a great boat!), when the nightmarish noise of splintering fiberglass shatters our ears and shatters the starboard side of Redford's hull.  A hole has been ripped above the water line.  The nav station with all of its electronics has been splintered.  Water gushes over the VHF, the SSB and the RL70 radar and plotter, which the single-handing Redford stupidly never turned on while he took his siesta down below (the container he hit was a good three feet out of the water and would have been picked up by his radar and set off a proximity alarm).  SO....lets give the movie the benefit of the doubt at this point and say we all make mistakes.  Sure, many a cruiser has made the deadly mistake of not taking advantage of their electronics.

Now he has a hole in his hull and he is attached to a sea container full of sneakers.  His yacht is under full sail, continually banging against the corner of the large metal box, and water is gushing into his cabin while he bobs up and down in the middle of the Indian Ocean.  Most cruisers, in this situation, would suffer from a major adrenaline rush and kick it into high gear to get out of the current situation.  Redford takes his pretty time looking at the container in his hull, checking out the surroundings, and then WALKING SLOWLY up on deck to take down his sails.  As a viewer, you want to yell at the screen.  Water is gushing into this man's boat and he is out for a walk in the park.

Redford eventually ties a sea anchor to the opposite end of the container to pull the container away from his hull, which unexplainably easily separates without pulling the yacht with it.  Great! Redford has pulled his yacht free!  With his sails down and calm sees, his hull damage is above the water line even with a good 2ft. of water already in his cabin.

But wait!  He left his sea anchor tied to the container!  He must go back and get it!!  Redford gets his jib back out and goes on a port tack for a collision course with the container.  His breached hull is submerged again until his bow slams into the container again.  Why any boater would purposely run into the same thick metal container that has already crumpled his hull is beyond me, but he does it...(face palm here).  

He retrieves his sea anchor, brings it in and finally goes back to a starboard tack, bringing his hull breach above the water line again.  Finally, time for some brilliance.  


Yes, he does take the time to slap up some fiberglass repair over his hull.  Granted, it is paper thin, and is so poorly done that he can push on the fresh resin and it flexes under his fingers, but he still repairs the hole.  Then, he airs out some of his electronics out on his deck.  He actually pulls out his VHF, takes it apart, pours fresh water on it to get the salt residue off of it, and then hooks it up to a battery that had just spent a couple of hours under two feet of water....and....it works momentarily! Never mind the fact that it is not hooked up to an antenna or that the battery was completely waterlogged.  Who needs details, right?!

After an exhausting day, Redford heads down below for some sleep.  He can't sleep in his berth because he has not touched the whaler.  Yes.  That's right!  All this time and he has not removed a single bit of water from out of his boat even though his salon cushions are sloshing about.  How do you get a good night's sleep in a boat full of water?  Forget removing the water! Simply string a hammock up and swing back and forth above it!

No cruiser would ever go to sleep with that amount of water in their boat.  Getting on the whaler would be one of the first things anyone would do!

After a good night's sleep, Redford wakes up and continues with his relaxed demeanor.  He even stays relaxed when he hears thunder off in the distance and sees a dark grey mass of clouds ahead of him.  He is so relaxed, in fact, that he even takes the time to shave rather than changing sails, reefing, battening down the hatches or stowing everything away.

Then, the weather hits (and viewer, if you haven't squeezed your couch pillow enough in frustration while watching this film, well, the stuffing is about to fly).

During the storm, the film really proves that no cruiser was involved in the making of this film.  For starters, Redford seems to have absolutely no concern for closing his hatch whenever he goes on deck.  Blue water is crashing over the boat, yet he leaves the damn thing wide open.  Then, he decides to change sail.  He lugs out a HUGE staysail that looks more like a 135% genoa than a storm jib and attempts to hank it on.  The gail-force winds and breaking waves ultimately lead to Redford being tossed from the decks and being dragged by his jack line and harness until he pulls himself back aboard.  No sailor would EVER go up on decks in that type of weather to INCREASE sail.

At this point, Redford has admitted defeat and heads below, leaving his vessel to the whims of the storm.  So, of course, he is rolled.  A realistic scenario, except that no water creeps into the cabin at all.  

The movie reaches utter ridiculousness at this point.  

While his boat is flipped, no water is gushing anywhere.  The main hatch with its slatted wooden hatch boards doesn't seem to leak a drop and the ports that are literally wide open and swinging at all angles (because the boat isn't actually under water at all) do not leak a drop.  

The CAL rolls again, knocking down the rigging and punching another hole in the deck.  Redford goes back on deck and cuts ONE shroud to set his rigging free (if only every boat that was dismasted managed to just need one shroud removed when it is normally a tangled disaster).

After taking more of a beating, Redford decides to bail.  He deploys his life raft and climbs aboard, still tethered to his yacht.  He passes out in the raft and wakes to flat calm sees.  The CAL is riding very low because it has about five feet of water in it.  He heads down below, gathers some survival gear, including a sextant, and tosses his goods into the raft.  Then he stands around surveying the situation and decides he can go down below again and patch up a cut on his face.

It is flat calm, there is five feet of water in his boat which is drifting powerless in the middle of the indian ocean.  GET THE WATER OUT OF YOUR BOAT!  Staying on the vessel for as long as possible is the best thing you can do!  It is much safer than handing your life over to the seas in an inflated life raft.  You keep your supplies ready to go and the raft deployed so you are ready to bail at any point, but any Coast Guard will tell you that you should stay with your vessel until absolutely necessary to abandon ship.  He does need to abandon ship when the bow of his yacht mysteriously combusts and the CAL 39 finally heads to the depths.

Now Redford is adrift in a life raft.  He has a sextant, a map, some canned food, and a compromised water can that has filled with salt water.  Fortunately, he determines that he is drifting towards a shipping channel.

But, of course, we need to have another storm first.  The raft is tossed into another brutal storm.  It is flipped and begins filling with water through all of the zippers but it is a life raft, so it is still in tact.  This situation doesn't cut it for Redford, so he unzips the raft entry and swims out to attempt to flip it in more gail-force winds and huge seas.  He easily manages to flip it and never gets separated from the raft.

Through the storm, he drifts helplessly, sitting in the sun all day as he slowly gets closer and closer to the shipping channel.  When he does finally reach the shipping channel, he is missed by two ships, one of which goes right past him and his flares in the dead of night.  With no hope left as he drifts past the channel, he writes his final note and sets it adrift in a jar.  Reaching desperation, he sees a light off in the distance that same night.  Rather than using is last flare, he sets a fire in his old water can (made of plastic).  After igniting the paper, the fire gets going quickly, eventually melting the plastic and immediately setting the raft ablaze.

Redford is forced to abandon the raft or be engulfed in flame.  He jumps into the water and watches as the blaze grows and all that he has left is destroyed.  Redford has reached his breaking point.  He has been in the water for all of ten seconds when he decides it is time to give up and go under.  Forget the fact that you have just set a fire that can be seen by a ship from miles away. It's time to give up!

No. NO. NO!

As he sinks to the depths, he sees a hull headed straight for his blazing raft and a light searching the clear water.  He swims back for the surface and is lifted to the surface by a hand...

Annnnd...scene! Thats a wrap!

For a movie that got a 94% on Rotten Tomatoes from viewers and movie critics, we were wholly unsatisfied.  With so many blaring boating problems,  it really is a shame that they sank a CAL 39 for the making of this film.

That's all folks!  Our first movie review!

Until next time,

Erin and Dave