Cast Away (2000)
Rated PG13

Starring: Tom Hanks, Helen Hunt, and Nick Searcy

out of

Chuck Noland (Tom Hanks) is an efficiency expert for Federal Express. He travels all over the world to analyze shipping and sorting operations at various terminals for the company. Back home in Memphis, he has a girlfriend, Kelly (Helen Hunt), whom he sees in between jaunts from one end of the Earth to the other. Chuck manages to get home to spend Christmas Eve with Kelly. However, during dinner, a page summons him to Asia. Before he boards the plane that will take him there, he promises Kelly that he'll be back for New Year's Eve. Fate, however, has other plans for Chuck.

The plane encounters a mammoth thunderstorm over the Pacific Ocean and the pilot has to veer off course to avoid it. The storm plays havoc with communications and the crew cannot notify air traffic control of the change in plans. Suddenly, an explosion tears through the jet and Chuck finds himself as the sole survivor on a life raft adrift in the ocean.

He washes up on a small deserted island. With little more than the clothes on his back, the remains of the life raft, and a few Fed Ex packages that have also washed ashore, Chuck has to first come to terms with being without a schedule and then, possibly, without hope of survival.

After somehow managing to avoid seeing Cast Away for nine years, I finally took the time to sit down and watch it. I vaguely recall the trailers for the movie revealing quite a bit about the plot when the film was released in 2000. I think I benefited from being able to forget those spoilers and watch the movie relatively unaware of what was going to happen. I will not give away anything about the rest of the plot so that, if by some chance, you also haven't seen the movie, you'll be able to enjoy it as I did.

Tom Hanks gives a tremendously effective performance as Chuck Noland. For nearly two thirds of the movie, there is very little for Hanks to say, so he must emote through his actions. Hanks, who lost 50 pounds for the role, makes every facial expression and hand gesture count as his character transforms from a man who can barely get a drink from a coconut to a seasoned spear fisherman over the course of his time on the island. As a testimony to the quality of Hanks' performance, even though there is very little action during the island scenes, the movie never drags at all. Hanks remains immensely watchable throughout the film as Noland struggles against the elements and his own limitations.

Some might argue that the film's concluding act -- which I won't reveal -- is unsatisfying. I think it works well in context with the transformation of the Noland character over time. To say any more would give it away, unfortunately.

Director Robert Zemeckis and writer William Broyles go out of their way to avoid the typical "stranded on a desert island" clichés. The film even disposes with a typical musical score for most of the running time. By allowing the natural sounds of the island to become the soundtrack for Noland's ordeal, the movie becomes that much more immersive.

Hanks was nominated for an Academy Award for this performance but did not win. He lost to Russell Crowe's turn as Maximus in Gladiator. Even though it took me nine years to realize it, that was clearly a mistake.

Trivia: Some of the 'desert island' footage was shot on the mainland with a highway in the background that had to be removed. (Source: The Internet Movie Database)

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