It’s common knowledge that All Is Lost and Gravity are essentially the same film. A stranded traveller, cut off from civilization, struggles to survive against nature’s impartial wrath. Obviously they represent a choice between two kinds of films — a costly, big-studio, FX-driven entertainment about an inexperienced woman astronaut (Sandra Bullock) trying to get home vs. a primal, strategic tale of a wise sailor (Robert Redford) against the sea. Lost is modest, direct and pared-down, almost entirely silent and visually driven while the beautifully composed Gravity, though called “an amusement ride” by Bullock, is the most technically sophisticated, you-are-there space flick since 2001.

The irony, of course, is that All Is Lost, refined and adult and clearly metaphorical, hasn’t made box-office history while Gravity, a more conventional entertainment with effects galore, has made over $500 million worldwide. And with All Is Lost delivering a far more satisfying (upbeat but ambiguous) ending. Soul and resonance speak for themselves. The Movie Godz know the truth of it. Art isn’t easy but it feels better in the morning.

J.C. Chandor‘s All Is Lost has completely blown everyone away at the Cannes Film Festival. It’s a knockout — a riveting piece of pure dialogue-free cinema, a terrific survival-on-the-high-seas tale and major acting triumph for Robert Redford, who hasn’t been this good since…what, Brubaker? All The President’s Men? A long time.

“Has there ever been a mostly-dialogue-free commercial film that has worked so successfully since the advent of sound in 1927? What a landmark this film is. And every minute is absorbing. It has you by the head and the throat, and it never lets up. And it ends so beautifully and succinctly.

“I was told during tonight’s after-party that the festival honchos didn’t want All Is Lost in competition because it was ‘too commercial’ What? Nothing about All Is Lost says “overtly commercial” It may turn out to be a hit and good for Chandor, Redford and Lionsgate if that happens, but it’s going to be a bit of a struggle to get Joe and Jane Popcorn to pay to see an almost entirely talk-free movie about an older guy struggling to stay alive on the open seas. But I’m telling you straight and true it’s one of the most powerful, absorbing, original-feeling survivalist dramas ever made.

“In this alone-at-sea aspect, it’s five times better than The Old Man and the Sea and far more interesting than Life of Pi.” — from 5.22.13 post called “All is Brilliant.”

“The All Is Lost fan club seems to have a few more older than younger members. David Thomson‘s recent rave and Maureen Dowd‘s N.Y. Times profile of Robert Redford (in the 10.13 Sunday print edition) suggest this. Several have noted that All Is Lost is a metaphor about how nature has a way of making things more and more difficult for long-of-tooth guys, and then surrounding and taking them down. Salman Rushdie told me at the Telluride Film Festival that it wouldn’t be as effective if Redford was in his 40s — the fact that he was born in 1937 makes it all the more poignant.” — from 10.9.13 post called “Us. vs. Them.”

“Anyone who sees this film and goes ‘yeah, not bad, decent’ needs to get his/her pipes cleaned. All Is Lost is landmark, classic, world-class stuff, and most definitely a metaphor for the struggle and the loneliness that comes with late-period aging.” — from an 8.31.13 post called “Ambiguous Ending of Lost.”