November 21st

ALL IS LOST: What An Annoying Movie!

Posted by // November 21, 2013 // COMMENT (41 Comments)


Lost movie image 1

Finally got a chance to see this over the weekend, so now I can throw in my two cents. Problem is if you’re a sailor, you spend the whole film scratching your head, wondering what the hell is going on. Just how much did this annoy me? O, let me count the ways:

Mystery 1: Who is this guy? Where is he coming from? Where is he going to? Why is he in the middle of the Indian Ocean? Why should we care about him?

Mystery 2: The sea is absolutely flat calm, not a breath of wind, our Mystery Man is sleeping below (up forward, if you can believe it), without his engine running, and is struck amidships by a floating container… hard enough that it knocks a huge hole in the boat right where his nav station is. How could this possibly have happened? Was the container self-propelled?

Mystery 3: Mystery Man must somehow push the evil container away from his boat. He tries with a boathook. No go. Aha! The sea anchor! He attaches this to the container (remember again, we are in absolutely flat calm conditions), and it instantly pulls the container away from the boat. How does that work? Where can I get a sea anchor like that?

Mystery 4: Repairing the hole! Mystery Man does this with some fiberglass cloth, a few sticks, and some West System epoxy (nice product placement there!), while sailing with the boat well heeled over in a flat calm in almost no wind. How is that possible?

Mystery 5: Finally it dawns on us–the container hit in the nav station must be an important plot device. Mystery Man’s electronics have been completely saturated. He opens up his portable satellite phone and his VHF radio, rinses them in fresh water, and leaves them to dry. Once they’re dry, he focusses exclusively on trying to get the VHF (range maybe 30 miles max) to work and ignores the much more useful sat phone (range global) completely. Say what?

Mystery 6: That weird thing hanging on the back of his boat, what the heck is that? A Hollywood version of a windvane? Are those lines we see wrapped around the axle of the steering wheel supposed to be control lines? The bottom of the device, when we see it underwater, presents simply as a big rail that is bolted to underside of the hull. Say what? What did they spend on this film? Couldn’t they afford to buy a real windvane?

Lost windvane photo

You can see the Mystery Object That is Presumably a Windvane, which is bolted vertically to the boat’s transom, off on the right side in this photo

Mystery 7: What’s wrong with the jib??? It never looks like it is even fully hoisted. And whenever it is deployed, it is always luffing and is never trimmed.

Mystery 8: Mystery Man hears a VHF transmission on his radio, but can’t transmit. He climbs the mast to check the antenna, which turns out to be badly broken and disconnected. How could the radio possibly receive a transmission with the antenna like that? How was the antenna broken? Did the self-propelled container somehow fly up there and whack it before shooting back down into the hull amidships?

Mystery 9: While up the mast, Mystery Man sees an enormous storm just a few miles away. It has turned half the sky all black. Why didn’t he notice this while on deck?

Mystery 10: During the two storms he sails through during the film, we notice that Mystery Man has a habit of always closing the companionway completely when he is below, but always leaves it wide open when he is on deck. When his boat is rolled and completely capsized with the companionway wide open, how is it that very little water gets below?

Lost overboard image

During his first storm, Mystery Man goes forward to bend on the storm jib (before the storm, after he finally noticed it, he spent his time shaving instead of doing this). While on the foredeck he is swept overboard. Fortunately, he is clipped on–to the top lifeline, as you can see here. Amazingly, the lifeline and stanchion post do not break away under the load, and Mystery Man is strong enough to instantly hoist himself back aboard!

Lost capsize image

Here we see Mystery Man surviving his second capsize. He has no problem staying with the boat, even though he is not tethered to it. Note also the wide open companionway, which evidently did not result in any catastrophic downflooding

Mystery 11: The boat of Mystery Man loses its rig the second time it is rolled, and the broken mast ends up in the water on the boat’s port side. This somehow creates a new hole in the boat, up forward on the starboard side. Where’d that hole come from? If the plot demands there be a hole, why not just use the first one? The repair on that one was so patently flimsy it looks like you could easily poke a finger through it. How could it possibly have survived two violent capsizes?

Mystery 12: The new hole is sinking Mystery Man’s boat, so he takes to his liferaft. He leaves the raft tethered to the boat and falls asleep. Shouldn’t he be worried that the boat will drag the raft down with it?

Mystery 13: After his nap, Mystery Man has plenty of time to reboard his boat and gather supplies. How long was that nap? Why does the boat take so long to sink? Did the ballast keel fall off or something?

Mystery 14: Just how does Mystery Man stay so dry all the time?

Mystery 15: Mystery Man, since losing his electronics, has been brushing up on his celestial navigation. Once adrift in his raft he displays uncanny ability. He takes a sun sight, looks in a book, stares at his (perfectly dry) chart for a few seconds, and makes a mark at his location–no timepiece, no parallel rules, no dividers, no math, no worksheet required. Where can I learn to do this?

Mystery 16: Why does Mystery Man have no EPIRB?

Mystery 17: Why is Mystery Man’s liferaft moving so quickly? Judging from those marks he makes on his chart, he’s covering about 100 miles a day.

ANYWAY… I think you get the point. I could go on and on like this. Pretty much everything that happens to Mystery Man, and everything he does, is inexplicable to anyone who knows anything about ocean sailing.

I asked my wife, who doesn’t know much about sailing, if any of this bothered her, and she said she did wonder about Mystery Man’s ability to stay dry and the rapidly drifting liferaft. Otherwise she thought Robert Redford gave a great performance as the Mystery Man.

Frankly, I didn’t see that. All I saw was a man who looked confused, aggravated, and worried for over an hour and a half. I had exactly the same expression on my face the entire time.

The Biggest Mystery, of course, is why didn’t the filmmakers hire someone to advise them on what ocean sailing is really like? Reading through this very detailed precis on the film, I find only references to liferaft and marine electronics consultants. I know you can’t expect Hollywood’s version of reality to be much like real reality, but they could have done much better than this.

If you haven’t seen the film, I say give it a pass. Watch this trailer instead:


41 comments on “ALL IS LOST: What An Annoying Movie!

  1. Achim König

    I thought how stupid giving away the ending during the first minute. That spoilt it for me to a great extent. Also, this permanent closing of the hatch, but during the storm he leaves it open and hardly any water gets in.

  2. sailorrob

    just saw this film, and agree with this article — too much stupidity.
    1 a container bashes a hole in this guy’s boat, and he doesn’t wake up until some water splashes on his face.
    2 No waves — I’ve been on a boat. There’s a lot of up-and-down motion. In this movie there was very little, even during the typhoons. Plus: huge storms, no groundswell.
    3 Mystery Man seems to have no exposure suit or lifejackets.

    Stupid movie

  3. Lance Bateman

    Watched this movie a couple of days ago. It was reccommended by a good friend and with all the positive reviews i was expecting a great movie. From the very beginning I too was wondering what the hell this guy doing? Nothing about the movie made any sense. Ive not sailed a day in my life and there were so many things that defied common sense I couldn’t believe it. It really could have been great and you’d think that with someone as prolific as Redford that it would have been a lot better but unfortunately nearly every scene left me shaking my head.

  4. Alan

    I tried watching on Netflix tonight and turned it off after Redford had a shave to … calm his nerves? … instead of putting on his rain gear and storm sail.

    I know jack spit about sailing and even I was thinking “what the French toast are you doing?”

    The boat capsized, I declared “you deserve to die at see” to the TV and hit stop.

  5. Aaron Jefferies

    Funny how the 2-4 ships that passed him didn’t see or notice the 6 flares he launches up in the sky. How does his water container get left open, i’m sure if it was a matter of survival that he would have remembered TO CLOSE IT! dailyroach wasn’t lying about captain ron, its pretty funny.

  6. Brent

    For me, what ruined this film wasn’t the man’s ineptitude (which was apparent even to me- and I have no real sailing experience). No, what ruined it for me was Robert Redford’s character.

    The dude just doesn’t care. If that were the purpose of the movie, and he wanted to just die or go out in a blaze of glory, that would be fine. But he tried to live, and his final letter says he did everything he could. So if you care about living, surely you should show SOME reaction?

    The guy reacts to a sinking boat and a huge storm as if the neighbors had their music up too loud. How am I supposed to care about the man or believe his danger if he himself doesn’t?

  7. sonofasailor35

    Hollywood does this with every movie they make that involves real-life occupations or activities that require expertise. I long ago gave up watching courtroom dramas because, being a retired prosecutor, I found myself making little lists just like Mr. Doane. The vast majority don’t care about realism, they just want to be entertained. I did find the movie entertaining, similar to Spencer Tracy in Old Man and The Sea. Being entertained by a story is all about suspension of disbelief – for some it is a bridge too far, for others not. (BTW – that “windvane” looks like a man-overboard pole to me)

  8. First Last

    To the other commenters: We know too much. To put it in perspective, my son who has been in the US Army and has been in a few “hot spots”, he and his friends with similar experience always marvel, during firefights as depicted by Hollywood, the troops never seem to have to reload the M16’s.

  9. Andy

    Its on Netflix now so you can watch it for (almost) free.

    I couldnt get over how much water he allows to come through the first hole while on a port tack whilst only trying to retrieve his storm anchor! Didn’t seem to mind sinking as long as he can recover his trusty magic storm anchor…

  10. Troy H

    Mystery 6: It is, indeed, a sort of wind vane. It’s an auto tiller, meant to steer a constant angle off the wind while the sailor is below. Primitive autopilot, if you will.

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  12. Christine9

    You want to know why the movie makers didn’t hire a sailing consultant? The honest truth? Because 99.9% of people that watched the movie don’t know diddly squat about what you are talking about because we are not sailors. Therefore, nothing that you pointed out in your review really matters. It’s just a movie.

  13. gus

    Great review. For me, the movie was compelling, and I give it 3 stars. With a little effort they could have done much better. Aside from the seamanship and “equipment” issues (which didn’t bother me), my biggest problem was the opening scene – where he is writing his message. During that entire opening scene the we are seeing the shipping container which (at the time he wrote the message) was nowhere around. After all, the episode with the shipping container was eight days earlier. And, the shipping container was shown as almost submerged. In fact, when he struck the container (eight days earlier) the container was pretty well afloat; and level. This editing anachronism failed to connect with me and confused me for the rest of the movie. Maybe they were trying to show that the original “villain” (and cause of Redford’s agony) was also going down at about the same time as Redford.

  14. Nicholas C,

    All the retired Ladies Clapped and Hooted at the end of the movie.I should have walked out when I saw Redford waking up with wet feet in the forward cabin but I paid to get in…
    Was shushed numerous times while LAUGHING during heart wrenching scenes ..????

  15. Lawrence

    Hey, I have a great idea: If you have not already seen the movie and want to enjoy it, read this first:

    The main character, played by Robert Redford, is a rather dull-witted, but reasonably successful owner of a small chain of hairdressing salons, built and left to him by his father, in his hometown of Norfolk, Nebraska. His only hobby is astronomy, and he spends hours with his telescope making notes and looking at comets, etc. Later, this comes in handy.

    Having spent a lifetime land-locked and under the influence of a late-life divorce and the brain damage caused by a lifetime of hairdressing chemicals, he decides to travel to the west coast and hire a sailor to give him a westward ride around the world to the east coast of the United States. Knowing nothing about how to interview a trans-pacific sailor, the hairdresser ends up hiring a man who, though somewhat experienced and a great self-promoter, is nevertheless a bit of a drunk and careless with his boat, its maintenance and supplies.

    During the first part of the trip, the Redford character becomes deeply depressed and stops caring much whether he lives or dies, but he nevertheless learns just a little bit about sailing and some of the security/emergency equipment on the boat. Just a bit, because he’s not too bright—you know, all those chemicals—and because he’s depressed. In exchange for these rudimentary lessons on sailing, Redford cuts the man’s hair.

    Somewhere in the Indian Ocean, the old salt dies of a heart attack and the Redford character is forced to bury him at sea.

    The movie’s opening scene takes place the next morning.

    Now, try to ignore all the other inconsistencies and enjoy the movie.

  16. Lawrence

    I am not a sailor, but an oudoorsman. Signal with a hand flare during the day? No signal mirror? Light your liferaft on fire?

    I hated this movie because it insulted my intelligence. You don’t need to be a sailor to figure out that you should lean your boat away from the side with a big hole in it, not come about and crash into the container again, maybe use the container to tie your boat off for repairs. The list just goes on and on. It would have been better if they had set it up as him being the new guy and the experienced guy gets eaten by jaws, leaving him alone in his stupidity. In that way castaway is much better because we don’t expect anything from him.

  17. Alan

    I agree with the thrust of Doane’s piece and with the comments appended to it. I would add this: along with everything else missing from his kit when he abandoned ship, he lacked that basic item of safety gear: a radar reflector. Obviously, the mate on watch in that big Maersk container vessel that passed within spitting distance could only draw a blank screen. I think Doane was too kind in his commentary. The movie’s makers took us all for a bunch of fools. It was contemptuous of its audience. It mocked its audience. It banked on Redford’s box office appeal to sell tickets to a studio-staged fantasy that masqueraded as cinema art.

  18. bob lux

    Excellent review! Stupid movie! Also bothered by Redford’s one word commentary for the entire movie. A real account would show considerable emotion with words, shouts…show emotion…say something/anything!! And reviewer omitted the severing of the (apparently) only shroud holding the mast to the boat – how easy was that, and only one. This movie is idiotic. I saw it on a plane – did not have to drive to the theater to see. It is bothersome to read of its numerous accolades and positive commentary. The ending is surreal. Rewarding ignorance is frustrating, IMO.

  19. Andrew

    Very disappointed. Right from the first scene I was bothered as Mystery Man seems completely unfazed his boat has a major hole and is taking on significant water. He is so unconcerned he goes sailing around to inspect the container. He was neither decisive nor panicked. What gives?

    I am actually okay with his unpreparedness, figuring he was dreamer who bought an old boat at a yard auction and thought he could sail off into the sunset (it sadly happens too frequently) although I did wonder why such a novice was so far away from home. But the storyline did not address that except for his unopened sextant gift.

    Again, very disappointed.

  20. Andrew

    Very disappointed. Right from the first scene I was bothered as Mystery Man seems completely unfazed his boat has a major hole and is taking on significant water. He is so unconcerned he goes sailing around to inspect the container. He was neither decisive nor panicked in his actions. What gives?

    I am actually okay with his unpreparedness, figuring he was dreamer who bought an old boat at a yard auction and thought he could sail off into the sunset (it sadly happens too frequently) although I did wonder why such a novice was so far away from home. Aside from the unopened sextant gift the storyline does not address this.

    Looking at the DVD extra features shows the work that went into this but it is too bad the filmmakers didn’t spend a little more time making it technically believable. Again, very disappointed. :(

  21. Nick

    That’s not quite true bob. Fixed capsules, yes – they have a hydrostatic release for the cradle straps and a weak link for the painter once it floats free (which is a separate piece from the painter itself). But in the movie he pulled the painter himself then attached the tether to the rail, no weak link in sight, and his was not a fixed mounted raft so it wouldn’t have needed or required one.

  22. Vanessa

    More mysteries-
    Who maneuvers their boat to T-bone a container, then hops onto the container with their sails up (flat wind bedamned- a puff could take your home away), hand holding a line to the boat?
    Love the sea anchor solution, never thought to use it to reverse thrust.
    It’s storming!! Better stop shaving and put up the storm jib!!! Meanwhile, the boat appears to be making 15 knots or so on bare poles! Why go faster? He should have waited until after flossing and brushing as well!!
    I still enjoyed the movie though. Redford still has it!! I knew they would mess up the particulars, but still, some were hard to watch.

  23. West System

    It wasn’t an intentional product placement, we don’t have that sort of thing in the marketing budget. We found out they used West System Epoxy only after the film was out. We appreciated it, though.

  24. M. Mastrapasqua

    There are so many books that are written by people who survived real disaster at sea. Why not adapting one of those (like “Adrift: Seventy-six Days Lost at Sea” by Steven Callahan) ? At one point you also see a huge black eye-bolt on the top-side of the boat that most likely was used to lift the boat during the production. Why not digitally remove that ? Probably the director and the producer (who obviously never sailed) thought that the spectator could think that as part of the boat rigging.
    As it was pointed out, there are so many mysteries that even violate the law of physics. Starting from the collision with a floating container that magically still floats even if is open. Equally against the laws of physics, is the collision on the starboard quarter (almost amidships) between the sail boat and the container. Collision that happen in a calm day with no waves.
    The movie was so bad to be laughable.

  25. muiris

    May I add to the reviewers list of stupidities in this film.
    SOS in not proper procedure for a distress call. Surely the film maker must have heard of Mayday.
    A competent sailor has a grab bag prepared for emergencies. He doesn’t need to stuff a few tin cans in a bag at the last moment. Only 1 hand-held flare and 2 rocket flares is completely inadequate and against safety regulations. No hand-held VHF? No handles for the manual bilge pumps. After a dismasting there would be lots of wire rigging still attaching the mast to the boat. It would need a lot of work with a wire cutter to get such a mess sorted, not just a snip with a knife! The worst implausibility of all is the final rescue scene. Setting a rubber liferaft on fire with a match and a few pages of damp paper is nothing short of miraculous. Having the liferaft blazing away merrily when the rescue boat arrives is totally mad. If spotted by the watch on the container ship, it would take 15 minutes at least to take way off the ship and another fifteen minutes of more to get a boat in the water. Wonderful material in the liferaft that could ignite so easily and keep burning so long! My list goes on, but I’ve bored you sufficiently. Enough said!

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  27. Rob Lidstone

    Oh dear !…all you salty types miss the significance of this intensely moving demonstration of man’s indomitable struggle with the unceasing torment of existentential existence in the face of his eternal striving to fully demonstrate humanity’s poweroof……………………………………..

    ps.oh yes,and $$$s come into it somewhere

  28. Harvey J, Karten

    Sounds as if the Redford movie could be a useful training film! (LOL). Each of your points are good topics for discussion, contrasting reality to “Hollywood sailing”.
    But what is the core message of the film? Is it about Redford’s mystery man’s indomitable spirit? How to develop imaginary solutions to unrealistic events?

    I may wait for it to come out on DVD.

  29. Michaelle

    My husband teaches celestial navagation. He laughed when Robert Redford held up a sextant never appearing to adjust the tangent screw or check his watch for the exact time, This is simply nonsense celestial navigation. This would have been very easy for the film makers to present correctly.
    I have been on the Pacific Ocean and I was amazed at the errors in this movie.
    Michaelle and John
    Westsail 32
    Adagio- lying Seattle

  30. Carllie

    My husband & I have crossed the Pacific Ocean twice. We were astounded at how little bearing this show has to reality. The most frustrating thing was how he left his hatches open in BIG STORMS every time he went out! Also, if you fall overboard, and the boat is in a storm, even if you are tethered on, there’s no way you could pull yourself back up. A million little things… Just complete ignorance on the part of the filmmakers. I’m disappointed Redford allowed himself to play such an ignorant part as well.

  31. Mike Virr

    I have done two transatlantic races as navigator (3rd overall & 1st in Division 1), FourBermuda races and won the Long Island Sound Singles handed race. This movie has no relation to reality.

  32. Moondancer

    Oh no! That will drive me crazy. I was hoping this would be good. Although I have to admit I (regularly) give a lot of leeway to Captain Ron. But then, Kurt Russell, eyepatch, banana hammock. And gorillas. What could be better?

    I’m not sure I’d feel as happy with the errors just watching Redford looking … mysterious …

  33. Rick

    I was looking forward to this movie and was a little disappointed when I saw all the dumb mistakes and the lack of urgency from the outset. That being said, any movie with a sailboat is ok by me.

  34. bob

    If the liferaft was tethered to the boat with it’s own tether like it is supposed to be, there is no need to worry about the raft being dragged down when the boat sinks. There is a section of that tether that is made to part under a certain amount of strain. Perhaps you should attend a Safety at Sea Seminar or get some liferaft training before your next voyage offshore .

    Obviously from my first comment, I cannot type very well.

  35. bob

    If the liferaft was tethered to the boat with it’s own tether like it is supposed to be, there is no need to worry about the raft being dragged down when the boat sinks. The is a section of that tether that is made to pard ind a certain amount of strain. Perhaps you should attend a Safety at Sea Seminar or get some liferaft truing before your next voyage offshore .

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