They imagine finding the pipe, and daydream about streets and restaurants being named in their honor. But the film turns out to not be about the mission really, as the discovery is only a third of the way in. It is also not about the letters, though these aid to the charactersí development. (One letter is from Sabinin (Innokenti Smoktunovsky) to his wife; the other is from Sergei (Yevgeni Urbansky) to the expeditionís sole female (Tatyana Samojlova).
Letter Never Sent, then, is about Mother Natureís unwillingness to let them go back to Moscow and bring news of the wealth. They have lost communication, but are trapped more by the elements. When a vicious and unrelenting firestorm breaks out, it engulfs the scenery and the characters. It calls to mind the opening, where cinematographer Sergey Urusevky (who also shot Kalatozovís The Cranes Are Flying (1957) and I Am Cuba (1964)) shrouds the four geologists and risks losing them in the brush and wilderness.
Letter Never Sent may not be remembered for the story, but its striking black and white cinematography--some of the finest Russia has ever produced--alone makes it worth seeing.