Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Review: Cast Away

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/a/a7/Cast_away_film_poster.jpg/220px-Cast_away_film_poster.jpgCast Away
2000, Directed by Robert Zemeckis
Written 22/4/13

This review is gonna end up sounding like a Tom Hanks love letter if I'm not careful. There're not many actors who can carry 90% of a film by themselves without any fellow actors or background music, but somehow Hanks manages it and spectacularly. There are often times when I forget just how beautiful and profound this film truly is, beyond the Robinson Cruesoe experience and funny Volleyball with a face on it. Such is something I deliberately aim not to do on a regular basis.
     I suppose the film's main focus is on freedom and Independence, and how an increase in either can affect daily life. By being stranded on a desert island, workaholic FedEx exec Chuck Noland (Tom Hanks) is "freed" from his day to day life, wherein he travels around the world on business and rarely gets to see fiancĂ©e Kelly (Helen Hunt). As he retraces the steps of Neolithic man and slowly discovers how to hunt and make fire, we skip forward four years. Now a much more rugged and serious man, Chuck finds a sail and sets off, making his way back to the States, only to find that he was declared dead in his absence and that despite her still loving him, Kelly now has a husband and child that Chuck isn't prepared to make her abandon.
     The lack of score for the film's core creates something of a deeply intimate atmosphere between Chuck and the viewer, as we witness his fairly logical path from citygoer to survivalist. I think if you're making a castaway story then you're either focus sing on the mechanics of the situation or on the effects that it has on the people who are stranded, and I think that Cast Away balances the two rather well. Certainly helpful is the ingenious use of Wilson, a blood-stained volleyball whom Chuck takes up as his silent companion, allowing him to exposit despite being the only person there.
Chuck prepares to leave the Island. (Not That Island, but it
did in fact in fact inspire That Island. so I'll give it you.)
     If I had any complaints at all, it'd be that the skip from the first few weeks of Chuck's life on the island to the final few days was quite abrupt, no matter how beautiful the transition sequence was. I did think it was necessary, as it allowed Chuck to progress realistically as a character and to develop some darker themes, as well as to allow Tom Hanks to show just how far he's willing to go to prepare for a role. I liked the amount of continuity between the before and after segments, and the way that the tragedy of Chuck's return is played is perfectly toned - from the achingly insensitive seafood party to the final monologue wherein Chuck explains his attempts at suicide on the Island and then affirms his reason to live as simple hope. In fact, that monologue is one of my favourite moments in cinema.
     Cast Away is a unique cinematic experience that I can't really compare to anything else. It's very easy to mock, but that's because life is like that, and one of the reasons why the film succeeds is that it maintains a fairly close path with reality even when using huge dollops of symbolism. Tom Hanks is an absolute trooper and if you needed any definitive proof that he's one of the best actors in Hollywood, then this is the film to do it. Cast Away is thoroughly satisfying on every level, and if you've never seen it, you're missing out.


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