All Is Lost

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All Is Lost movie poster

All Is Lost is a 2013 American survival film written and directed by J. C. Chandor. The film stars Robert Redford as a man lost at sea. Redford is the only cast member, and the film has almost no dialogue.


Somewhere in the Indian Ocean, the unnamed main character narrates, "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." He declares that, "All is lost."

Eight days earlier, he wakes up and sees that water has flooded his boat, the Virginia Jean. He goes out onto the deck and sees that his boat has collided with a wayward shipping container and ripped a hole in the hull. He goes below to get a sea anchor and ties it to the container. He then steers the boat away from the container and eventually gets it to dislodge. He goes to work patching up the hole in his boat and then uses a knife to carve a piece of wood until it can fit in the bilge pump hole, as he has lost the lever for it. After the cleanup, he finds that the boat’s navigational and communications systems have been damaged from the collision. He climbs up to the top of the mast, repairs the radio tower, and then climbs down. He pulls out the radio equipment and pours water on the interior of the devices to remove conductive sea salt from them. Then, using a storage battery, he connects the radio to it and turns it on. He returns to the cabin and begins to read a book on celestial navigation when the radio comes on. He hurries to it and tries to pick up the signal, but eventually it drops out of range and cannot pick up anything.

A storm quickly converges on his position and he tries everything he can to outrun it and stay on course, but he is thrown overboard and only just regains the deck after a long struggle. The boat capsizes, destroying the mast and all the equipment on board. With the boat badly damaged and sinking, he decides to abandon ship in an inflatable life raft, salvaging whatever he can to survive.

As he learns how to operate a sextant he salvaged from the boat, he figures his best hope of being found is to use the ocean currents to carry him to the shipping lanes. During the journey, his supplies dwindle and he learns too late that his drinking water has been contaminated with sea water. He improvises, using condensation from plastic bags to get fresh water.

He reaches the shipping lanes and is passed by two cargo ships. They do not notice him and continue on, despite his use of signaling devices. He eventually drifts out of the shipping lanes and back to open ocean. However, he is out of food and water and cannot hope to survive much longer. On the eighth day, he writes a letter (as was narrated at the beginning of the movie), puts it in a jar, and throws it in the water as a message bottle for anyone to find. Later that night he sees a light in the distance, possibly another ship. He is out of signaling devices, but uses his journal book and charts to create a signal fire. The fire gets out of control and burns his raft. He falls into the water, but is weak and struggling to swim. Having finally lost all hope of surviving, he stops swimming and lets himself sink. Before he drowns, he sees the hull of a boat with a search light approaching his burning raft. He swims up towards the surface and grasps an outstretched hand, and the film abruptly cuts to white.

Open Water Swimming

All Is Lost was named one of the Great Movies for Open Water Swimmers by the Daily News of Open Water Swimming.

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