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Movies Review

Cast Away

Cast Away – A man vs nature survival story featuring the most famous piece of sporting equipment ever.

Cast Away Poster 87 / 100

Score : 87/100

Watchable Minutes: 115 / 143. There’s a bit of fluff towards the end that could have been repurposed to show some more time on the island. 

Trailer Comparison : The trailer for Cast Away is so 2000 it hurts. The cuts and fades with the word art-esque text is ridiculous and, as I mention further in my review, it gives off a man vs wild vibe. 

Movie or Film : I think Cast Away should live in between movies and films. I can’t figure out which bucket it really belongs in because there’s the actiony parts that make me think it’s a movie. Then there’s the more subdued emotional moments that highlight Tom Hank’s struggle to retain his humanity through Wilson. 

Info : 

  • Run time : 2 hours 23 minutes
  • Studio : 20th Century Studios
  • Director : Robert Zemeckis 
  • Where to Watch : HBO Max , Prime Video ($)

Summary : 

Chuck Noland is a typical career executive – Constantly putting his personal relationships and obligations on the back burner to satisfy his work life. Getting a last minute call that requires his attention during the holiday season, Chuck leaves his girlfriend and family behind while promising to be home in time for New Years. Halfway to his destination in Malaysia, Chuck’s plane crashes in the middle of the ocean and he is the lone survivor. Chuck wakes up on the shore of a deserted island with a new profession : survive.   

Review : 

The story of Cast Away is very well done. I enjoyed the character flaws they built into Tom Hanks’ portrayal of Chuck Noland. He is portrayed as being so engrossed in his career that he can’t see how it’s straining his relationship with his girlfriend, Kelly. Or maybe he can and he doesn’t care enough to stop his corrosive obsession and repair his relationship. He clearly loves Kelly, as she’s the one thing that keeps him fighting for his life on the island. But he doesn’t love her more than his career until after he realizes his career doesn’t care if he’s dead – FedEx is going to keep on throwing packages on porches with or without Chuck Noland. I think that’s where the story of Cast Away excels beyond the normal fare of survival movies. Chuck had probably never realized it, but he could have been single forever and been happy, as long as he had his career. That switch is flipped once Wilson is introduced. He realizes how much he needs human interaction and how much he depends on Wilson to keep going. I feel that the time skip backs me up here. It’s not a man vs wild situation for long. Chuck seems to conquer nature fairly easily. He could have lived the rest of his life on that island, albeit unhappy, as long as he didn’t develop some sort of disease. We don’t even see Chuck break until after he loses Wilson. Losing Wilson reduces Chuck down to a sobbing mess for days. He isn’t upset or angry at being lost at sea, he is upset that he loses his best friend, and he basically gives up at that point. Granted, there really isn’t much he could do as his raft is all but destroyed. But once he is rescued, Chuck seemed to finally realize how much more his relationships should be worth to him. 

As I touched upon previously, Hanks takes the character from one extreme to another in a way that I think few other actors could. He’s great as the overbearing executive who only cares about the job. He’s just as great as the broken man who just lost his rotting volleyball BFF.  I also liked how few lines he actually delivered once he’s on the island. His actions and facial expressions were able to convey the sense of resignation that Chuck was feeling with ease. Without Tom Hanks, I don’t see this movie scoring above a 60 because of how inseparable this role has become with his career. 

Robert Zemeckis is an accomplished director, having created Back to The Future I-III, Forrest Gump, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit to name a few. It’s evident in his other movies that he really gets how to create a world for his characters to live in and Cast Away is no exception. However, there’s a few choices made that I don’t really agree with. First off, what’s with the random whale breaching the surface, making eye contact and then following Chuck for days until it ultimately tries to wake him up so he sees the ship passing behind him? I get that there’s “symbolism” behind it –  Chuck “No Land” Noland is drifting aimlessly and the whale represents the sea and its push to make him choose between his old life and his new life. I still think it’s dumb. The story was so grounded in reality that I don’t need a spiritual whale to guide me through his decision making. Secondly, I don’t think there was quite enough time on the island. The movie is called Cast Away, so one would think that it’s more of a survival story with a man vs wild angle, which is the vibe the trailer gives off. Instead, what we get is more of a man vs nature angle and his ultimate accomplishment is not conquering the wild, it’s Chuck conquering his own nature to become a better person. This isn’t a huge gripe, but I think there could have been more time on the island to see Chuck struggling to come to terms with this change. Maybe shave a few minutes off the beginning and end points and put some more time on the island to show Chuck figuring out how to survive to show the transition of time in a more gradual fashion.  

There isn’t much to say in terms of the cinematography / set design. It’s a great looking island. I totally bought into how alone Chuck must have felt. Normally I find movies from the late 90s to early 2000s to really show their age, but that isn’t the case for Cast Away. Sure, the cars and the outfits look dated, but you don’t really notice those after about 20 minutes or so. The CGI was also a little dated, but again I can excuse it because of when it was made. 

The score for Cast Away is pretty unique as well. There isn’t a single original piece until after Chuck washes ashore and even then, it’s lacking in the music department. Silence isn’t always a bad thing and Cast Away does it well. I did think that the choice for Chuck to be so interested in Elvis, especially in 1995 was a little random. I think you could have substituted any other artist with no impact on the overall movie and it would have made it a bit harder to date. 

I had never seen Cast Away prior to this past weekend (3/6/2021), so I’m a little over 20 years late to the party on this one. Somebody could easily remake Cast Away (please don’t) with a fresh coat of paint and it wouldn’t really change anything. I think that speaks volumes about the quality of this movie and what makes it so good. Watching one of the all time greats like Tom Hanks put on a performance like Chuck Noland is always a good way to spend your time. I’m glad I finally got around to giving this a watch and if you haven’t already, you should watch it too. 

If you like this, check out : 

  • Forrest Gump
  • Back to The Future

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