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Reviews: 'All is Lost' thrills; 'The Counselor' disappoints

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Robert Redford proves he's still one of the film world's greatest treasures in "All is Lost," an amazing lost-at-sea adventure drama that features about 20 lines of dialogue throughout its captivating one-hour, 40-minute running time.

"All is Lost" begins with a narration scene, where a character only known as "Our Man" (Redford) concedes in a good-bye note that he's all but given up hope at the end of a perilous sea journey.

Flashing back eight days earlier, we learn that an errant shipping container floating on the Indian Ocean punched a gaping hole in his vessel, leading to Our Man's instant struggle for survival. A resourceful sailor, Our Man patches it up, but since water poured into the boat and destroyed all means of electronic communication, he's left to fend for himself against storms, sharks and time -- and it's running out fast.

At 77, Redford is a charismatic as ever in "All is Lost," as he steadily anchors a very difficult role throughout. It's great, too, that the industry's biggest proponent of independent film is still taking risks in his career, helping writer-director J.C. Chandor realize a vision that might not have been easily embraced by the studio system. It's a breathtaking, original and refreshing film.

"All is Lost," rated PG-13, 3 1/2 stars out of four.

What other local critics are saying ...

Chris Hewitt of the Pioneer Press calls the film "expertly paced and gripping from beginning to end."

Colin Covert of the Star Tribune gives high praise to "All is Lost" -- but does not rate it -- saying "after a legendary career" Redford "has delivered his defining performance."

Also opening this week is "The Counselor," a crime thriller that squanders the talent of its A-list stars miserably.

Michael Fassbender stars as the character known only as "Counselor," a public defender whose work on the side gets him mixed up with some vicious drug trafficking heavies in Mexico. Before too long, the attorney he finds himself dispensable, on the run and desperately trying to save the life of his new fiancee (Penelope Cruz).

Directed by Ridley Scott and written by acclaimed author Cormac McCarthy ("No Country For Old Men"), "The Counselor" seems more intent on impressing itself with it's rambling, philosophical dialogue than actually assembling a sensible narrative for prospective audiences. The film would have been better off going the route of conventional crime thriller than aspiring for some deep meaning.

The film also stars Brad Pitt as an expert larcenist and Cameron Diaz as the scheming girlfriend of Bardem's outlandish wannabe club owner character. Watching them do what they do best, it becomes apparent that the core cast really isn't the problem with "The Counselor" -- they're just reciting a bunch of lofty lines and hoping somehow we'll understand it.

Ultimately, it's the bizarre execution of the film that makes it a tremendous disappointment.

"The Counselor," rated R, 1 star out of four.

What other local critics are saying ...

Chris Hewitt of the Pioneer Press says in his 3 star review that he likes the film's extended dialogue, saying the "scenes are smartly paced verbal duels, and they are mighty entertaining."

Colin Covert of the Star Tribune gives the film 1 star, saying the "real crime in 'The Counselor' isn't what the Mexican mafia does to interlopers, it's what the film does to its cast."

Bring Me The News film critic Tim Lammers is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association and annually votes on the Critics Choice Movie Awards. Locally, he reviews films on “KARE 11 News at 11” and K-TWIN FM. As a feature writer, Tim has interviewed well over 1,000 major actors and filmmakers throughout his career and his work is syndicated nationwide.

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