David Edelstein on the intense "All Is Lost"

Edelstein praises Redford in "All is Lost" 02:44

(CBS News) Our critic David Edelstein says the film "All Is Lost" sinks or swims on the performance of its sole performer:

Robert Redford is in his late 70s -- I can't believe it, either -- but he's never held your gaze like he does in the movie "All Is Lost."

Now, it's true you've got nobody else to look at: He plays an unnamed man on a damaged boat in the Indian Ocean and he's the only actor in the film. But did you ever think that two hours with just Redford could be this intense?

It's been years since Redford's acting was surprising. It was when he started in the Sixties; he was beautiful, cool, self-aware. Those appraising eyes and slight hesitation in his speech suggested thought, and it's not easy to think on-screen.

But more and more it looked like he was thinking how to get off-screen -- maybe to the ski slopes, or his Sundance Institute, or to testify on behalf of some good environmental cause.

He rarely had chemistry with others. Paul Newman, sure: He never looked at anyone with that much affection. And in 1973, in "The Way We Were," that force of Jewish nature Barbra Streisand mounted a full-blown assault on his WASP-y reserve.

But as the title character of "The Great Gatsby," Redford was a non-starter: He didn't convince you of his longing for Mia Farrow's Daisy, for the one person in the world who'd complete him. He was complete -- and comfortable -- by himself.

Which is exactly where we find him in "All Is Lost" -- a man who needs no one.

He awakes to find a hole in his yacht. Director J.C. Chandor is brilliant at creating a procedural disaster picture, meaning it's process-oriented, each little step on the way to . . . well, the title says it, although the film is a parable. There's a double meaning to "All Is Lost."

You see him realize at long last that by himself he's not enough. And you see Redford do something he hasn't done before on-screen: Stop thinking, and give the performance of his life.

More on "All Is Lost":
New York Film Festival review: Robert Redford in "All Is Lost"
Robert Redford isn't speechless about near-silent role in "All Is Lost"
"All Is Lost" (Official site)

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