“All Is Lost is amazing, deeply moving, and a harking back to an age when the best mainstream films might be the best pictures America made,” says New Republic critic David Thomson in a 10.3 posting. “It is an adventure and an epic with one person. I am warning you that it may win Best Picture, and that its one person, Robert Redford, deserves what has never come to him before, an Oscar for best actor. He is as noble, vulnerable, and harrowed as Gary Cooper at his best.
“Moreover, he seems comfortable on a boat in an enormous ocean. He shows huge, innate skill in letting us share in what the man is feeling. But, in truth, this is a film about presence and hope crumbling with age and stress…a metaphor for brave spirits in a crushingly organized life.
“You will be as drained when you see it as you have ever been at a movie. I’m not sure that desperate action has ever been as fully conveyed. It could be a commercial hit, but one that leaves us puzzling over what that title means — as if it were Hiroshima mon amour or The Best Years of Our Lives. Just when one worries whether a large, crowd-pleasing American film can still contain resonant ideas, here comes such a thing.
“There will be arguments over the ending, but granted the acknowledgment that All Is Lost we might guess what is coming to all of us. I think the exact handling of the resolution is a miracle that manages to marry the uplift of a great popular entertainment with the philosophy of what survival and life mean. But very few Hollywood films have ended in such ambiguity, or with such a mixture of wit and despair.”