ALL IS LOST
NOTE: This spoiler was submitted by Spectre.
Title cards inform us that the film takes place 1700 nautical miles from the Sumatra Straits.
We see a large red metal shipping container floating in the sea. The Man (Robert Redford) begins to narrate, apparently reading a letter he has written to his family. He tells them that it is July 13th at 4:50 p.m. though he knows that doesn’t mean anything to them. He apologizes to them and says “I’m sorry. I know that means little at this point, but I am. I tried. I think you would all agree that I tried. To be true, to be strong, to be kind, to love, to be right. But I wasn’t.” The Man says that he fought to the very end, and wanted them to know that. However, in the end it seemed, “All is Lost.”
8 DAYS EARLIER
The Man wakes up in his yacht to a loud, crunching sound. Looking down he sees his cabin is filling up with water from a hole that has been created by a large object. It has fortuitously hit at the spot where all his electronic equipment sat, rendering most of it useless due to water damage. Going outside to the deck, he realizes what hit him. A large shipping container from a commercial vessel had somehow slipped off and fallen into the sea.
The Man brings his sail down. He then grabs a metal pole and tries to push the metal container away from his boat but is unsuccessful. Going back into his cabin, he grabs a bag that holds a sea anchor. Getting on top of the container, he ties a rope to one end and throws the anchor over, causing the container to pull away from the boat.
The Man starts to sail a short distance away. However, he is still taking in water from the damage. The Man sees shoes floating in the sea, and realizes that cargo contents. The Man shakes his head. He was almost sunk by shoes from China. The Man turns around and docks right next to the container and retrieve his anchor.
The Man checks some of his boat electronics, including a water pump and realizes he has none that work. The Man looks for a box and brings it outside. Inside is a repair kit. Mixing some chemicals, The Man begins to mend the large hole in his boat with polymer glues and faux siding.
The Man takes a piece of wood and carves it into a handle so he can manually pump the water that has flooded in out of his boat. We see him eat and watch the sunset. He then goes to sleep in a makeshift hammock as his cabin is still partially flooded.
The next day, The Man takes his radio outside and pulls it apart. He mends the hole in his ship further. He manually pumps water out of his boat.
Later, The Man takes some clean water and pours it over the circuit boards of the radio in order to clean them out. We see him finish his mending and getting rid of the rest of the water out of the cabin.
We see The Man mopping up the rest of the excess water in his cabin and cleaning up some of the other mess. He checks the mend to his boat, and seems to be satisfied. For the time being it will hold.
We see him take out one of his boat’s batteries and take it outside. Surrounded by maps, he is trying to determine his position. Putting the radio back together and clipping it to the battery, he hopes to power it up enough to get a signal. It doesn’t seem to work, but as he goes back down to the cabin, it crackles to life. The Man races back up to it and tries to make a call. “This is the Virginia Jean with an SOS call,” he says several times to no response. Then the power goes dead.
The Man sits in his cabin later and pours himself a large drink to cope with his situation. As he begins to cook dinner he hears rain. Looking outside, a strong but brief shower falls on him. He seems to revel in it, being able to feel some fresh water for once and rubs it on his arms.
The Man eats his dinner and reads some before getting some sleep.
The Man uses a pulley system to get to the top of the mast to reconnect a loose cable and tighten a lug nut. In the distance, he sees that a very bad storm is coming his way. Keeping calm, he slowly pulls himself down. He then proceeds to secure all the loose items on board and ready a container of fresh water.
The Man shaves his face. As he does, the storm outside begins.
The waters begin to get extremely choppy with the storm just right behind him. The Man puts on rain gear as the storm fully begins to rage. The Man grabs a bag with a sail in it and attaches a safety harness to his rain gear so he won’t lose it. That turns out to be a good decision as a large wave knocks him off the boat and into the water. After struggling in the water for a minute, he is able to get back on, and reattach the sail.
The Man goes back into the boat cabin and lies down, exhausted and wanting to wait some of the storm out. Suddenly, he rockets up and pukes up some salt water in the sink. He then tries to lie down again, or not; just as he thinks he’ll be okay, the entire boat is tipped over by the waves, obviously freaking The Man out. Somehow, the boat turns back over to the right way without fully sinking. The Man goes back outside and attempts to drop the anchor to dock him to this position. However, as he tries to do so, a large wave topples the boat again. The man struggles in sea as the boat flips around in the water again. The Man times his movements to get back onto the boat as it rights itself again.
However, the boat suffered major damage on the second toppling. The mast is basically destroyed, making sailing impossible. The Man cuts the ropes holding it to the boat and the broken mast floats away. As he looks back inside the cabin, he notices another hole has formed, dumping more water into the cabin. Before he can get his bearings, a wave hits the boat, causing him to lose his footing. His face slams into a pole and he is knocked out.
The Man wakes up to a bloody gash on his forehead and his boat almost completely submerged in water. The Man looks around and realizes there is nothing he can do. The boat is lost. He goes further into the cabin and grabs a yellow bag that contains a large life raft. He goes out to the deck and inflates the raft in the water. He ties a rope to the raft connecting it to his boat and gets in for the time being.
The next morning, The Man comes to and sees that the boat is miraculously still standing but obviously unusable. The Man pulls the rope back so he can go get supplies. He bags up canned goods, a spoon and fork, some plastic, maps and his nautical book, his jug of fresh water, mesh net, a hat, and his rain coat.
He leaves the boat for his raft only to decide to go back. He retrieves a white box and grabs some quick antiseptic and band aids for his gash. The Man hears the water rising again and gets out of the cabin and back into his life raft. He watches in solemn silence as his yacht sinks for real this time. He is now alone in a raft in the middle of nowhere.
The Man opens the box he retrieved. Inside is a sextant that he will use to deduce his position. He realizes that if he uses the natural current, he can reach the Sumatra Straits where many shipping vessels pass. If he can get there, perhaps he can get help.
The Man notices that he is taking in water on his raft. “Shit,” he curses under his breath. He quickly empties it out with an empty can.
The Man bunkers down as another storm hits. He checks his position after. He is getting closer to the Sumatra Straits. Another storm hits overnight, and he tries to ride it out. However, a wave flips his life raft over. He is left holding on to what is the bottom, while the water is all around him. Having no choice, he goes underneath the water, unzips the cover, and then gets to the surface to turn the life raft over. He is successful and gets back in, re-zipping up the cover.
A new day begins for The Man. He re-inflates the boat a bit and calculates his position. He is even closer to the Straits. As he eats, he realizes that his stockpile of food has gone empty. He goes to take a drink of water only to spit out. He tries again and realizes something is wrong. Examining the jug, he sees that an extra plug came loose and thus contaminated his fresh water with sea water. The Man mumbles a bevy of curses under his breath, capped off with a thundering “FUCK!”
After that set back, The Man cuts a hole in the container and empties the salt water. He then takes the plastic and places it over the container, hoping to create fresh water via condensation.
The Man then looks into his survival kit and pulls out a fishing line and sets it. He checks his position. He is in the Sumatra Straits.
A little while later he sees a large commercial vessel full of the shipping containers that got him into this mess in the first place. He pops a flare and screams for help. Unfortunately the ship is going too fast and no one sees him.
As he lies down later, his fishing line begins to move. He notices and tries to reel it in. Just as the fish is in his grasp, a shark jumps up and eats it off his line. The Man realizes that he is surrounded by sharks because of a nearby school of fish. This will prevent him for getting one as they will eat or scare off all his potential food.
It is now night time. The Man sees another boat coming his way. He pops off two flares in the hopes that they will see him. They do not. The Man is crushed.
The Man wakes up and scoops up what little fresh water he has and sips it. It is now all gone.
He checks his measurements and realizes that he has wandered out of the Straits and into the Indian Ocean. The man shakes his head. Getting help has now become even less likely.
We see him write a letter (his goodbye letter from the beginning) and pulls out a jar. He puts it in the jar and throws it overboard in case he actually doesn’t make it.
Later at night, The Man sees a light from what appears to be a boat. Desperate, The Man makes a fire in the water container using paper in order to signal the boat he thinks is in the distance. However, it eventually causes the entire raft to catch fire. The Man jumps out and treads water nearby waiting for somebody to come. No one does. The Man realizes that all his attempts to survive have failed. There is nothing more he can do. He treads water a little longer and then goes under.
The Man begins to sink to the bottom, exhausted and ready to face his fate. As he drifts lower, he sees a light at the surface. It appears he wasn’t crazy. Perhaps someone is there. As he continues to look, he sees an outline of a boat. There was someone there. As the boat searches the raft wreckage, The Man finds his will to live. He begins to swim to the surface near where the boat/light is. As he breaks the surface, he grabs a hand that reaches for him. He has been rescued, finally.
Fade to white, roll credits.