While out on the Indian Ocean on a solo voyage our man (Robert Redford) wakes up one morning to see that a wayward shipping container has hit his boat. With water coming in our man is able to do a quick patch to the boat. He is able to continue for a short ways but learns that the patch is not going to hold.
Gathering what he can to survive he climbs into a raft. He is able to salvage some cans of food. He is able to get a sextant that will at least allow him to learn of his location. He has some nautical maps. He has the survival kit of some fishing line, water and matches. He is very alone.
Before his boat went down he had tried to get some sort of communication out declare an emergency SOS. Unfortunately, no one is able to hear him. His mission is to be able to maybe get his raft into a shipping lane and get a freighter to spot him.
One night off in the distance he spots a storm and it tears up the raft and him. He is able to salvage his raft because at the last minute if he hadn't done so his raft would have been lost to the sea. Our man is a very knowledgeable sailor. He does everything that you are supposed to do to survive but it just seems that everything he does he just can't seem to have any luck.
He wakes up one night to a freighter fully loaded with cargo sailing right by him. No one on board is able to see him even with our man firing off some safety flairs. Another freighter does the same thing and sails right by him, but when you are simply a little blot on a very big ocean it's hard to be spotted.
As days become longer and you have run out of drinking water and you have to improvise to get some drops of water off a piece of plastic and your food is running out you begin to lose hope of ever being rescued.
It is times such as these that the brain leans more to suicide rather than trying to survive. You begin to lose hope and you wonder why you are trying so hard to live but you seem to be tested more and more on your will to live. It is at these times in your life that you can truly amaze yourself.
Director J.C.Chandor doesn't fill this film up with a lot of useless chatter. Our man is not one to talk to himself. This film is what you see is what you get. Survival.