February 15 Saturday morning. “All is not lost”

Written by Jack van Ommen on February 15th, 2014

Last night I watched the recent movie “All is lost” with Robert Redford. I do not see many movies and have not owned a t.v. since the 20th century. But I had looked forward to this movie with some anticipation since I share a few similarities with the subject and the actor. Before month’s end he and I will both be 77. The movie’s story is of him suffering a shipwreck as a solo sailor. The reviews I have read both in the U.S. and Europe for the director and actor have been full of praise. The few reactions I have heard and seen of other sailors have been less complimentary.

I found a few scenes well done and clever but for the most part lacked any link to reality in a solo sailor’s shipwreck in mid ocean. And it could have been made more real if the director would have done a little more homework on the subject. I realize that the movie is not made for the handful of solo ocean sailors and the even rarer portion who get to suffer a shipwreck. Much of the reviews’ praise go to the determination and resourcefulness in Redford’s attempts in survival; but you need an awful lot of imagination, particularly for the non-sailor, to figure out what some of those attempts portray.

The movie starts with Redford waking up in a collision with a floating container. The ocean is flat calm, a mill pond, the mainsail hangs limp, useless, yet somehow the container has managed to put a large hole in the boat. To separate the boat from the container he goes forward on the container and puts a drogue out from the container and then under sail, without wind, wildly spinning the wheel as if he is on a tugboat, manages to get loose from the container. But to the non-sailor this action would need a manual. And there are many more of this category. Example, how many movie goers would interpret, from the charts he uses in the life-raft, that he is crossing a controlled shipping lane? But then they would also know that these are not found in the middle of the ocean.

The boat’s interior looks like it seldom leaves the dock all it needs is a few potted plants and doilies. For the exterior of an ocean going sailboat it lacks a dodger, dinghy, outboard motor, wind generator or solar panels, radar dome, etc.. But he most nagging questions are that with all the fancy equipment he has at his disposal, where is the EPIRB, handheld waterproof VHF-Marifoon to call the ships that pass him within a couple hundred feet, a handheld GPS instead of the Sextant, a life vest?

The one scene in the storm where the boat turtles and Redford suffers a head injury I found credible and cleverly enacted. In the aftermath he manages to jettison the broken mast by snipping one wire, not so credible.

The ending is unexpected but thought provoking one is left with their own interpretation of what the metaphor of the outstretched hand means.

You’d need to wait till “Soloman” appears in your local movie theater to get the sailing part right. “All is not lost” yet…….

 

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