Cast Away (2000)

Cast Away (2000)

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The moment he realised he didn't have any toilet paper.
The moment he realised he didn’t have any toilet paper.

Twitter Plot Summary: After his plane crashes in a storm, FedEx bod Chuck Noland finds himself marooned and alone on a desert island.

Five Point Summary:

1. Is this film sponsored by FedEx, by any chance?
2. That’s not exactly good weather to be flying in.
3. Ahh, Wilson. Pleasure to meet you squire.
4. I think that whale might be stalking him…
5. Literally at the crossroads.

Most of Cast Away’s running time features Tom Hanks acting with a volleyball called Wilson, whose face has been painted using the blood of Hanks’ character Chuck Noland. The fact that this manages to fill the middle act of the film and remain thoroughly engaging is testament to Hanks’ acting ability and the fact that actual dialogue was written for Wilson – the volleyball – to make the one sided conversation a little more believable. Noland finds himself cast away for over four years, during which time he learns how to survive and keeps his sanity by conversing regularly with the aforementioned volleyball. Amazingly this turns out to be quite an emotional bond from an audience perspective. Hanks manages to put an amazing amount of pathos into his performance and you can almost get the feeling that Wilson is a real person rather than an inanimate object.

Maybe I was expecting a bit more from it, but there’s something missing that I can’t put my finger on. Perhaps it would be an easier film to appreciate if Hanks’ character was somewhat unlikeable. Instead he’s actually quite a nice guy – he’s played by Tom Hanks, after all – which does help us root for his survival and hope he escapes or is rescued from the island. More so because his whole reason for taking the flight in the first place was a last minute business trip and all the guilt and deep emotional scarring this undoubtedly results in. To say there’s a hefty dose of emotional undercurrent to the story would be an understatement, for both Noland and those he left behind.

There's only going to be one winner in this argument. The volleyball.
There’s only going to be one winner in this argument. The volleyball.

The part that worked best for me is the final act (no spoilers here) whereby Hanks demonstrates the slightly deadened eyes of a man who has lost everything and is trying to discover his place in the world. The metaphors are a touch heavy handed – he literally finds himself at the crossroads – but the point it makes remains valid. What is the human spirit all about, and raises questions about the path we follow in life, the choices that life makes for us, and what influence we have on those choices. For me at least, and feel free to disagree, there wasn’t enough time on the island. This is despite the 2 hour 20 minute running time. Robert Zemeckis, much like James Cameron and Peter Jackson of late, has a distinct fear of the editing suite, it appears. His major selling point though is the arc that the characters in his films follow, be they emotional, physical or metaphorical. The point is hammered home quite emphatically, but like most of Zemeckis’ recent output could do with being trimmed down by 20 minutes or so just to refine the message.

In any case, Cast Away is sold based on Hanks’ performance more than anything else. Whether or not he actually gets off the island isn’t really the point – it’s his emotional journey and the efforts he goes to in order to maintain normalcy in the face of exceptional circumstances.

Score: 3.5/5

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