ON July 13, approximately 1,700 nautical miles from the Sumatra Straits, an unnamed sailor (Robert Redford) prepares to surrender his soul to the sea.

"I fought to the end," he whispers in voiceover, "I'm not sure what that's worth, but know that I did..."

We glide back in time eight days to find the same sailor midway through a voyage across the Indian Ocean.His 39ft yacht collides with a wayward metal container, which has been shed from a cargo vessel. The yacht's hull is breached but the captain patches up his craft and continues his journey.

But Mother Nature is cruel and throws up a storm that batters the boat and leaves the sailor with dwindling food and water supplies.

As sharks circle the stricken vessel, he must use celestial navigation to chart a course back to humanity via the nearby shipping lanes.

Written and directed by JC Chandor, whose debut Margin Call was a tautly paced drama set on the floor of a Wall Street investment bank, All Is Lost is a lean, nail-biting thriller that touches on similar themes to Alfonso Cuaron's blockbuster Gravity – solitude, mortality, the indomitability of the human spirit – albeit without the whizz-bang digital effects.

And Redford delivers a mesmerising solo performance.