Released just over ten years ago now, I think I’m one of the last people to see ‘Cast Away’ which stars Tom Hanks as Chuck Noland, a Fed Ex worker who travels the world motivating regional offices and getting them focused on the timings of the operation. On the way out to help another office one evening, the plane he is on ditches in the Pacific Ocean and Chuck finds himself washed up alone on a desert island.
Tom is in confident, fast-talking go-getter style for the initial scenes. Personally there was far to much of the detail of the operation here for me that was unnecessary and time wasted. The opening half an hour feels like an extended advert for Fed Ex when really there was no need to use an existing company for the story.
Still, the scene where Chuck gives his fiancé a christmas present and boards the plane saying “I’ll be back soon” has a tongue in cheek feel about it because we all know that in film language that means he definitely won’t.
The ensuing ditching scene is terrifying. It must be 10 minutes of sustained panic with glimpses through into the flight deck through the door and to the ocean through the clouds.
Life on the island follows a familiar pattern of shelter building, exploring, obtaining food and the like and Chuck’s character goes about everything with a calm and measured positive attitude that is typical of the endearing personas that Tom Hanks creates. It keeps you with the character and it is perfectly complemented by the lack of incidental music and songs, by the fantastic scenery and by the restrained dialogue. The film here is brave, focused and set entirely on the island and because of this it surrounds you and laps at your feet as if you were sat on the island observing Chuck yourself.
This great and sustained section helps to amplify the awkward feeling of act 3 (I’ll leave the ending of the story free from exposure at least!) which would be a million times more awkward for Chuck himself. Great sadness isn’t dwelled upon by the pragmatic protagonist and he has the power to see another door opening soon after one shuts in his face.
Quite simply, it’s an enjoyable journey, and a film that has you feeling emotion over a volleyball has got to be doing something right!
4 on 5
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Starring: Tom Hanks, Helen Hunt
UK Release: 12th January 2001