There have been several phases in Robert Redford’s career. In the beginning, he was hunky, All-American—a heartthrob with flashing blue eyes and killer charisma. Then he was the Sundance Kid, a star-making role he ably followed with strong performances in classic movies like The Sting and All the President’s Men. Next, he tried his hand behind the camera, which worked out well—he won Best Director for his debut film Ordinary People, and was nominated again for 1994’s Quiz Show. Now, after two hit-and-miss decades, it seems he’s after one last hurrah: clasping an Oscar for Best Actor after five decades of being a film icon.
Which just might work out. J.C. Chandor’s new film, All is Lost, features Redford as a man lost at sea after his boat is sunk by a collision with a shipping container. The trailer and film are mostly wordless, but you can almost hear Redford’s inner monologue upon accepting the role. One man lost at sea? I’m the only cast member? I can get a last stab at this thing! It worked for Tom Hanks! Hanks’ Cast Away turn lost out to a certain gladiator that year, but Redford’s take should give him a shot, at least, if the new trailer is any indication.
Redford did win an Oscar for Lifetime Achievement in 2002, but publicly admitted the award felt a bit condescending in its assumption that his career was winding down. The gripe was fair: The next year they gave the same honor to Peter O’Toole, who, at 70 years old, had been nominated for Best Actor seven times without winning. (A few years later he was nominated again, and lost again.)
Awards aside, the movie looks like a transfixing account of one man’s struggle for survival. Reception at Cannes was effusive, and Chandor’s first effort, the Oscar-nominated Margin Call, was an incisive, insulated thriller that examined the latest Wall Street crisis from the inside out. All is Lost—which is largely silent and outside the realm of current events—presents a sharp contrast to that film, and it’s heartening to see both Chandor and Redford test their range. Despite the lost-at-sea trope being a tad overdone—that overhead shot in the trailer brings to mind a very similar shot in Life of Pi, albeit with fewer glowing whales—Redford has the gravitas and presence to imbue this narrative with something new, jarring, and yes, Oscar-worthy.