Cast Away

Tom Hanks, Helen Hunt, Nick Searcy

The worst thing about Cast Away is knowing going in just about every nuance of Tom Hank’s performance and the story behind it thanks to the ridiculously detailed trailers that have been hitting the screens in the weeks preceding its release. Still, this is a film worth seeing just for Hanks’ performance because it’s virtually a one-person movie.

Hanks plays Chuck Noland, a kind of efficiency expert/trouble shooter for FedEx. On a last minute trip to Tahiti just before Christmas, Noland bids his girlfriend Kelly Frears (Helen Hunt) goodbye, giving her an inkling that a wedding proposal will be the first agenda upon his return. But the plane suffers a mishap and crashes into the ocean in a truly harrowing sequence. The only survivor: Noland, left clinging to a life raft amid fiery debris, darkness, lightning and mammoth waves. Unconscious, his raft floats silently toward his new home.

So begins his Robinson Crusoe existence for five long years on a tidbit of an island of rock, palm trees and little else. He is comforted by a picture of Kelly and aided by some incidental FedEx packages that wash ashore from the downed plane. How Noland manages to secure food, water, shelter and one of his most needed commodities, fire, is compelling with Hanks doing a standout job bumbling his way through fishing episodes, coconut bashing and coping with his injuries in the process. It’s humorous but at the same time, scary, especially if we were to put ourselves in his place. His survival is indeed a miracle.

Noland’s worst enemies are time and loneliness. He fashions a friend out of a volleyball. It’s the one thing that keeps him sane. The island sequences, with their lack of music or even birdsong, have only Hanks and the expert direction of Robert Zemeckis to keep the momentum. And Hanks’ creative behavior makes for some fine drama.

Interestingly, though, what could have been the better part of the movie is hardly explored: his return to civilization. One can’t help but wonder how screenwriter William Broyles Jr. would have depicted this dynamic survivor coping with the extreme loss of time and love and how he would have learned to start over – again.

Also features Nick Searcy as Noland’s co-worker, Stan and Chris Noth as Jerry Lovett.

Lotta says: I want to see the sequel. Otherwise, Cast Away is a good film. Maybe next time the studio will trust that people will want to see Hanks in whatever he’s in and not give away the whole kit and kaboodle beforehand.

Reviewed 12/22/00