Synopsis: After a collision with a shipping container at sea, a resourceful sailor finds himself, despite all efforts to the contrary, staring his mortality in the face.
Stars: Robert Redford
Director: J.C. Chandor
Running Length: 106 minutes
TMMM Score: (9/10)
Review: I have to be honest; I’ve never been the biggest Robert Redford fan. Though he represents a time in Hollywood and filmmaking that’s nearly forgotten, I’ve sometimes struggled with his films and a general aloofness that’s hard to warm to. It hasn’t helped that Redford has spent the last three decades in front of the camera and behind it in mostly serviceable cinematic excursions, chosen less as opportunities to produce strong work but rather as a showcase of impressive landscapes (The Horse Whisperer) and people he wanted to work with (The Company You Keep). The days of Ordinary People-esque work were pretty much over.
So you’d imagine how high my eyebrows arched when I heard that Redford’s latest project was just him in a boat on the ocean for one hour and forty five minutes. What kind of Redford performance would we get? Turns out, Redford is a sneaky devil and has provided to audiences the chance to watch a screen legend remind us why he’s been an A-List star for much of his career.
With next to no dialogue to speak of (aside from a brief opening voice-over, the most we get out of Redford is a four letter no-no word) and no leading lady to romance, the movie is entirely on the broad shoulders of a fully present Redford and he more than rises to the challenge as Our Man, an interesting choice of name for this All-American movie star.
Woken from sleep by a collision aboard his sailboat, Our Man doesn’t respond with a kneejerk reaction of racing around the ship, bailing water and yelling for help. He silently and calmly moves into action, using his resources and resourcefulness to fix the problem at hand. Over the next days the problems start to stack up and it’s left to our experienced sailor to navigate through storms, fires, and other maladies that can happen at sea.
Even with all the bad stuff happening, the movie never feels like it’s piling it on for poor Redford. Through no fault of his own, Our Man find himself in a tricky situation and he responds like any practiced man of the sea would…by taking stock of the situation and making the best choice at the moment. Redford’s weather-worn face speaks volumes, adding the character some extra wrinkles (literally) that tells his back-story without having to spell it out for everyone watching.
The movie doesn’t deal with the past or the future but the here and now, an excellent choice by writer/director J.C. Chandor (an Oscar nominee for the screenplay to 2011’s Margin Call). It doesn’t matter what brought Our Man to the center of the ocean or what he may be escaping from, it just matters that he keeps going forward and doesn’t give up.
Redford keeps our attention even when the movie sags ever so slightly around the halfway mark. Even with that minor quibble, it’s a strongly recommended film for its engaging narrative and star performance that proves that old sea dogs may not need new tricks to get the job done.