Faethor Ferenczy’s review published on Letterboxd:
J.C. Chandor directs this movie about a mans struggle to survive out at sea. The man in question is Robert Redford and the film contains no other actor apart from him. The film also contains virtually no dialogue at all, which is ironic as I was just saying on my last review of Once Upon a Time in Anatolia that American films sometimes relied too much on spoken words rather than leaving the viewer to gauge the characters feelings and intentions purely from actions and expressions. Well this film relies almost entirely on that!
Robert Redfords character is out at sea in the Indian Ocean on a solo voyage. His boat unfortunately gets caught on a floating shipping container causing damage to the boat and allowing water inside. You'll have to excuse my lack of technical terms here - I don't know the slightest thing about sailing! Anyway, this is where the film starts and things go from bad to worse as the boats electrical systems fail and without navigation he ends up sailing into a storm or two causing even more damage. He eventually has to vacate the boat and rely on a lifeboat as he aimlessly floats and tries to survive long enough to be rescued.
I really enjoyed the film and was with the character all the way, feeling everything he was feeling. It felt very natural and realistic, almost making me feel like I was in the boat with him. Robert Redford did a fantastic job, managing to convey every emotion with ease without uttering a single word. That's a skill that only a truly accomplished actor has. He never gave up, no matter how grim the situation was and I felt myself rooting for him all the way.
I've read some reviews by people who have good knowledge of sailing and apparently much of what he does in the film would be classed as incompetence by a true sailor. Whether this is intentional or not I'm not sure as we find out very little about this mans background. Maybe he was only an amateur and decided on a risky impulsive voyage for reasons that we are not clear about. Or maybe he was supposed to be an expert sailor and he acted unrealistically. Who knows! But this didn't really detract from my viewing experience as - like I said earlier - I know nothing about sailing! All I know is that fared lot better than I would have done!
In my own mind, I thought the attention to detail was really good and his actions in any given event realistic. The storm scenes were done just right and created a very tense atmosphere to balance out the mundane by comparison drifting scenes, although I found these scenes compelling too. The best thing is he managed to do it all in a dignified way, without having to befriend a basketball for company. People lose respect for your ordeals when you start resorting to things like that! The whole film was paced very impressively and as an experiment in filmmaking, it all worked very very well for me.
I can't say that this is Robert Redfords finest ever performance as I've probably only seen a small percentage of his movies, but I wouldn't at all be surprised if it was.
In summary - fantastic survival film with an outstanding performance by its only actor. 8/10