Cast Away

Movie Review by Susannah Macklin

Starring: Tom Hanks, Helen Hunt
Director: Robert Zemeckis

One man marooned on a desert island taking from him what might have been some of the best years of his life while teaching him the meaning of it….

As tempting as it is to cut in here with the Crusoe-isms, it has to be said that only the team collectively known for Forrest Gump (actor Tom Hanks and Director Robert Zemeckis) could have bought one of the most unoriginal ideas in film into the 21st century, without turning it into the self indulgent tosh it could so easily have been.

Hanks plays Chuck Noland, a FedEx engineer dedicated to ensuring the swift and punctual delivery of a package (can’t quite see most couriers evoking this sort of dedication that only exists in Hollywood idealism) and equally consumed by his love for his hometown girl played by the understated Helen Hunt.

On his way back to FedEx duties direct from a family Christmas stop-over, Noland is horrifically wrenched from his aircraft. In what must be one of the most realistic crash sequences committed to film he is thrown to the hands of fate and the audience is met with the same shock that might really strike if you were to leave an aeroplane toilet to discover that your plane was plummeting toward the ocean. We are certainly as drained, if not quite as waterlogged, as Noland when he’s finally washed up, dodgy knitwear intact, on what is to become his home for the next hour or so.

As is now becoming part of film legend, after wonderfully capturing Hanks initial scenes on the island, Zemeckis cut filming for a year to work on suspense thriller WHAT LIES BENEATH, while Hanks worked on looking pale and interesting. It is in this shadow of a former self, that an emotionally testing experience becomes a personal hell, and had anyone else taken this role, I could so easily be referring to the audience after 60 minutes in the company of one actor however Zemeckis chooses to focus on a handful of painful realities rather than indulging in cliched island encounters. The overwhelming hardship of too much time spent with oneself becomes as agonising as the pain of Nolands’ early attempts at ‘do it yourself’ dentistry. Luckily for Zemeckis however, Hanks is the only one during the film extracting teeth.

For the most part CAST AWAY absorbs the mind and will have you wondering how on earth you would bare the unbearable loneliness of Noland’s reality. Hanks as Noland is wholly believable, enough so for us to celebrate in his choice of mute Man Friday who successfully bounces off his co-star, creating a surprisingly touching alliance.

It’s almost shameful then, that the film takes such an emotional about turn on Nolands return to the mainland. Attempts to show how missed time has taken its toll fall flat. Even Hanks and Hunt’s commendable performances cannot stop the yearning to run from the last half hour, straight back to Noland’s demi paradise.

What we have in Cast Away is a nerve wrenching, yet calming, heart warming but sometimes harsh film. Ultimately what Zemeckis is asking is that we survive Noland’s experiences along with him, it’s just a shame that we don’t want to hold his hand right until the very end, a difference that could have turned this clear Oscar contender, into a definite Oscar winner.

4 out of 6 stars

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