Cast Away (12)

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The ViewBirmingham Review

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Review byMatthew Turner11/01/2001

Four stars out of Five
Running time: 143 mins

Beautifully shot emotionally moving drama with an Oscar-worthy performance by Tom Hanks.

Tom Hanks stars as Chuck Noland, a trouble-shooter for Fed Ex, who flies all over the world at a moment’s notice, in order to deliver impassioned lectures on time-management with the central edict that "we can never allow ourselves the sin of losing track of time". On Christmas Eve, he effectively proposes to his long-term girlfriend Kelly Frears (Helen Hunt), just as he’s called away to solve a problem in Asia. "I’ll be right back", he assures her but, barely an hour later, his plane gets caught in a horrendous storm, drifts severely off course somewhere over the Pacific and then crashes horribly killing everyone but him. Noland washes up on a deserted island and suddenly the man for whom every second is precious, has nothing but time on his hands and has to adjust to his new environment in order to survive…

The first thing to say about Cast Away is this: if you’ve seen the trailer, and you’re thinking you’ve already seen the movie, then think again. Granted, the ridiculously long trailer gives away far too much, but it also leads you to think that the ending is going to be very different from the actual ending to the film, so don’t let that put you off. The second thing to say is that if you have an aversion to onscreen plane crashes, then this may not be the film for you, as the crash sequence is frighteningly realistic (shot using a handheld camera) and seems to go on forever (the whole sequence lasts around ten minutes).

If you can get past the crash sequence, however, the film has plenty of rewards in store, as Hanks gradually comes to terms with his exile on the island, and slowly learns to fend for himself (catching fish, breaking coconuts, making fire and so on). These scenes are brilliantly handled by both Zemeckis and Hanks, and you feel every bit of Noland’s frustration – by the time he takes his first sip of coconut milk, you’ll be as relieved as he is.

However, it’s with the arrival of Noland’s bizarre ‘companion’ - a volleyball that washes up in one of the FedEx packages, which Noland paints a face on and nicknames ‘Wilson’, after the brand-name - that the film becomes something extraordinary, as Hanks forges a genuinely affecting relationship with the volleyball (which, naturally, allows him to speak the majority of his dialogue), and which culminates in one of the most bizarrely moving scenes you’ll see all year.

It has to be said, Hanks is fantastic in the role, and he clearly put everything into the performance, including piling on the pounds beforehand, then taking a year off (Zemeckis shut down the production and made What Lies Beneath in the meantime) to both slim down and grow the necessary hair and beard (yes, it’s all his). The result is an astonishing performance, which should guarantee him yet another Oscar nomination come February.

As for the ending to the film, you’ll either love it or you’ll hate it, but Zemeckis has to be given credit for at least trying something different. Cast Away then, is well-worth seeing – an enjoyable, moving drama in which you’ll believe a man can love a volleyball. Highly recommended.

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Content updated: 20/05/2019 20:09

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