Another film about the human spirit’s ability to persevere we do not need, yet here we are again.
A lone sailor (Robert Redford) off the coast of Indonesia awakens to find his sailboat’s cabin filling fast with ocean. A massive hole has been torn through the side after a freak overnight collision with a rogue shipping container. In the vastness of the Indian s happening seem staggering, and yet this is only the beginning of the misadventure. After patching up the side of the boat, even despite the total loss of all modern navigation s left is for the lone sailor to venture into the nearest port and seek repairs, but of course we know this is not the story. It is as if the hulking metal mass has delivered upon the lone sailor a divine wrath from which there is no escape. When we see the container, a faceless representation of some mega conglomerate, smashed through the side of the delicate sailboat, sweatshop-produced shoes spilling out into the ocean, the irony is overwhelming. The very world the lone sailor has set out to get away from has tracked him down.
Before we start the film, just from the title alone, we know what the outcome will be, yet despite the unoriginal plot and standard shipwreck story conventions, the film succeeds. Fantastically succeeds. Almost completely devoid of dialogue, Robert Redford exudes a stolid, matter-of-fact persona in the face of catastrophe. He toils steadily, remaining steadfast in his manner. It is exhausting just watching him labor endlessly and even though he is performing, this performance cannot really be considered acting. Simply going through the motions of this role is enough to exude awe, especially when he is being thrown around wildly by the untamed, open ocean; the work that it must have taken to play this role is obvious and seems to strip away acting practices; what we really see is a man just trying not to die.