September 23, 2014

All is Lost - What is this movie really about?

Spoiler Alert: This is not a movie review, but rather an analysis of the symbolism exhibited in the movie All is Lost. If you haven’t yet seen the movie, this analysis will detail many major aspects of the plot as well as give away the ending.

All is Lost is a movie starring Robert Redford as a man alone on a sailboat in the middle of the ocean, and through a series of disasters we watch as he struggles to survive on the open water. If taken at face value, it might be compared to a movie like Castaway where one person must be creative with resources in order to make it out of a deadly situation. If you wish to look a little deeper, you might say that it’s an allegory about a man preparing for the inevitability of death. Either way, it works.

My take on this movie is that it’s all meant to symbolize the way small businesses are constantly being overrun by large corporations. I’ll explain the many reasons why I reached this conclusion in the list below:
  • Robert Redford's character represents the small business owner and the sailboat symbolizes his business.
  • While he was sleeping, his sailboat gets struck by a Chinese shipping container. Given the difference in times on the other side of the world, China does business while we in America are sleeping.
  • The shipping container also represents the way in which cheap foreign imports often make things even more difficult for small business.
  • Redford's character is resourceful and he has the means and know-how to fix the hole in his boat. However, he spends so much time trying to patch that one problem that a storm catches up to him.
  • The storm represents the current state of the economy, or even the business world in general.
  • Once the storm hits, the sailboat (business) holds up for a little while, but ultimately takes on too much water and starts to sink.
  • Redford's character is forced to downsize by transferring to the life raft. He scrounges what he can from the sailboat to take along with him, including a sextant.
  • The sextant represents Redford's character relying on old school tried and true methods. It works for a little while.
  • After getting into the raft, we start seeing a lot of underwater shots and at first a school of small fish can be seen following underneath.
  • A short time later, some barracuda show up to eat the smaller fish. This is an obvious ploy on the adage about how "there's always a bigger fish" and is somewhat foreboding.
  • A few large ships pass by Redford but he's so small on the water that they don't even notice him. This is meant to show how large corporations view small companies - or rather how they give them no notice at all.
  • Sharks eventually show up to circle the life raft. These are meant to represent the banks and financial institutions, as demonstrated by how Redford's character is fishing and has the catch taken by a shark right before he can pull it in the boat.
  • When Redford sets the raft on fire to signal the other boat, this could possibly be interpreted as a fire sale. The way that it burns in a large ring like a big zero also plays into this.
  • At the very end, when Redford is rescued by the other boater, pay attention to the size of the craft. It's a very small boat, meaning that it was another small business owner that reached out to him. Businesses supporting other businesses is how small businesses survive. That's how I saw the ending.
What do you think? Am I onto something here or completely off base? The movie is available on Netflix and I highly recommend it, whether you enjoy it for the adventure on the water or choose to look deeper for other meanings behind the action on screen.

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