A riveting and emotionally investing drama of survival against the odds aided by a stellar Tom Hanks performance at the heart of it, Cast Away definitely sticks in the mind for the right reasons and should be watched by all.
It’s 1995 and Chuck Noland( Tom Hanks) is a time obsessed Fed Ex analyst executive who travels the world and sorts out problems within the delivery company. He’s extremely efficient in his job though it often comes at the cost of seeing his girlfriend Kelly(Helen Hunt) at their home in Memphis. After Christmas dinner, Chuck gets a call that he’s needed in Malaysia. Before departing, he gives Kelly a present of an engagement ring, but tells her not to open it because he’ll be back by New Year’s Eve. Unfortunately things don’t pan out for him as he hoped. A storm hits his plane while travelling across the Pacific and Chuck survives after it crashes, due to finding a lifeboat amid the terrifying chaos of the crash. After floating for a night, Chuck washes up on a deserted island scared and alone with seemingly no form of rescue to speak of. Now the man who was always thinking of time is on a deserted islands with only a few packages that survived the crash to use. All the while, Chuck contends with the future and vacillates between desperation and hope as the island becomes his place of residence in an unthinkable and extraordinary situation. He makes a number of attempts to escape the island, which prove futile at first as he is not what you’d call an expert in the wilderness. Gradually, he manages to think of ways to survive( like fashioning a shelter from one of the packages and its content before taking up residence in a cave) and carry on, even personalising a volleyball which he calls Wilson and speaks to in order to avoid the fact that there is no human life in sight. But if he does manage to return to civilisation with one of his plans, what will await him?
Robert Zemeckis fashions a deeply felt survival drama and saga into something special and attention grabbing throughout. Considering most of the film is Chuck by himself , it doesn’t feel dull, instead emitting a depiction of surviving against the odds and what the human spirit can do. And Zemeckis knows how to keep you glued, which is clearly on show in the intense and striking sequence of the plane going down into the sea. Credit must be given to the script, which while not featuring a bell of a lot of dialogue, manages to chart the journey into becoming someone else and learning to adapt . And some moments of Cast Away are surprising and don’t turn out quite the way you expected, which makes for more interesting viewing. Now I must say that the running time of Cast Away does feel a tad excessive later on, but that shouldn’t take away from the excellent skill on show in the main crux of the story. It seems that when Cast Away comes back to civilisation, despite some moving moments present, it flounders in not quite knowing what to do to satisfy the audience and make the story work. But the majority of this wonderful movie on the island are extremely amazing and not even a few lulls and flaws can detract from this very human story about having to survive the best you can and what isolation can do to a person. It’s both an emotional and physical journey for the protagonist( having much in common with Robinson Crusoe if it was made a bit more contemporary) and we’re with him every step of the way as he discovers how he must live and be in order to make it out alive and back to safety. Moments that could have been laughable such as having Chuck striking up a friendship with a volleyball are instead very moving and fascinating in showing how Chuck’s own mind is eroded throughout his arduous time on the island, coupled with his ingenuity and alternating despair. As Chuck tests things out and little by little learns to adapt to his newfound surroundings, we share his varying feelings. Noticeable throughout is that their is no narration from our main character, which I’ve seen done in films of a similar vein. Plus, the score is very minimal and only really spears in the latter stages of this dramatic story. Instead it’s the sound of the island( the waves, wind, nature )that make up the aural atmosphere and give hints of authenticity instead of shamelessly manipulating our feelings. It also emphasises the feeling of being solitary and having only nature and feelings of uncertainty surrounding you. Plus, the location work is second to none and presented in strange but wonderful glory as a solitary place and one where a man undergoes a transformation
Tom Hanks is a veritable one man show in a role that deservedly saw him nominated for an Oscar. He goes through a complete journey and makes it feel so honest and moving. Hanks famously lost weight to convey years of being stranded and it shows his dedication, while the fact that he’s on screen virtually by himself let’s him display his immense talent and how he can hold the attention of an audience. He journeys through desperation, inventiveness, resignation, elation, sadness and many other emotions throughout and never misses a beat. All in all, Tom Hanks and his physical as well as emotionally convincing performance are what truly keeps Cast Away a movie to watch. I really can’t imagine anyone else in this role and delivering it so excellently and believably. Helen Hunt, despite limited screen time, provides enough warmth and grace as Chuck’s girlfriend. It’s true she works wonders with a small role that has a big impact. But Cast Away is clearly the showcase for Tom Hanks throughout and what it’ll be chiefly remembered for by the audience watching this movie.
So lulls aside when it leaves the arduous but extraordinary journey at the centre, Cast Away is handsomely made, incredibly stirring and sublimely acted mostly by the powerful Tom Hanks.