I saw All is Lost over the weekend, and I like it. Perhaps I am reading too much into it, but I started thinking that some of the criticisms may have been part of the back story. Take a fairly successful businessman, with a healthy ego and lots of self confidence. He retires and is bored. He bought his Cal new back in '79 and has been a fair weather weekend sailor, but reading all kinds of sailing books and magazines. He decides to sail solo around the world. He has 30+ plus years of sailing experience, but doesn't realize that its all near shore nice weather experience. He has maintained the boat by calling the yard and telling them to fix things, but he thinks of it as maintaining his boat. He has managed large companies therefore a 39 foot sailboat is a piece of cake. His wife and children are against the idea, but he ignores them. The get him a very nice sextant for a birthday present, but he never actually opens it or learns to use it. He read the book, or at least started to. He stops at West Marine and buys the gear they recommend. He's watched that fishing show on TV, so he gets Grundens foulies because they are "professional". He knows his Rolex will tempt the "natives" so he leaves it home and gets a Seiko diver's watch. He knows about fiberglass repair, but he has never done it. He is sorry, they were right. His pride is that he never gives up, not that he made the right choices or that he handled tough situations. If you look at it that way, the name brands are not just product placement. Wasn't there a picture of that adjustable wrench with the sinnet lanyard in Brion Toss' book? What else would you take up the mast? We all see ourselves as good competent sailors, who would never make such foolish errors, but I for one have done some pretty brainless things. I have learned to live within my limitations, at least that's my view of myself. I know guys like that, I may be one myself. And yes there is a copy of Mary Blewett's book on my shelf, even though I have never been far enough off shore to get away from all the light pollution. Just a thought.
I don't make films but I imagine with all the stuff that gets edited out, the stuff that gets left in, gets left in for a reason. I'm sure there were plenty of people on the set that realized that an adjustable wrench was either unnecessary or the entirely the wrong tool.
But, having Redford pull a wrench out of a tool bag while perched precariously on top of a tall mast that he had just pulled himself up… well, it projects a different image than had he simply reconnected and tightened the antenna cable with his fingers. Frankly I didn't even catch the error.
And the back story you provided is one of but many possibilities. There is no right answer. The letter that's read in the beginning is very short and intentionally vague. He apologies for something but we don't know what.
Even the end is not clear at all. Audiences were tested. Half walked away thinking he died while about half thought he lived. That's what the writer wanted.
The movie merely provides a framework, the audience has to fill in the blanks.
Oh, and thank you for pointing out that capable people make mistakes and sometimes do stupid stuff. Watch any pro football game for countless examples.
I for one was dumfounded that he chose to ram his boat onto a shipping container that had managed to put a hole in the hull just a short time earlier. Was that smart? Or was he just mad at it?