A Remarkable Survival Story
When an actor appears as the sole character in the major part of a movie and keeps me riveted during the entire time, itís quite an accomplishment. Thatís just what Tom Hanks does in Cast Away. This dramatic "man versus nature" adventure shows how a FedEx systems engineer survives being stranded on an island after an airplane crash. In this exceptionally well-filmed movie, Hanks plays Chuck Noland, a time-obsessed, pudgy suburbanite who undergoes tremendous physical and emotional changes as a result of his unique experience.
With that expressive face and his intuitive body language, Hanks (Oscar-winner for Forrest Gump and Philadelphia) masterfully displays Chuckís intense feelings of anger, fear, pain, and joy. No one can see or hear the frustrated castaway, so he howls when injured and hides when frightened by mysterious sounds. Exuberant after finally starting a fire, he pounds his chest while shouting at the sky, "See what I have created!"
Finding loneliness as difficult to deal with as the elements, Chuck engages in frequent conversations with a Wilson volleyball --- the only part of the film that seems silly at times. He also entertains himself by drawing primitive pictures on the wall of a cave and by gazing longingly at a photograph of his beloved girlfriend (Helen Hunt).
Watching Hanksí gut-wrenching performance caused me to wonder what I might do if faced with such a catastrophe. Would I be able to start a fire without matches, catch fish without a pole, build a shelter or an escape raft? I donít think so. My idea of "roughing it" is spending a weekend at a hotel with room service. But these are just a few of the many tasks Chuck must take care of in his new environment. After seeing Cast Away, I have a greater appreciation of everyday items usually taken for granted --- including such simple conveniences as ice and flashlights.
In addition to Hanksí superb acting, amazing cinematography by Don Burgess (What Lies Beneath) helps lift this movie above the ordinary. During one of the most terrifying airplane disaster sequences on film, I almost felt I was inside the doomed craft as it plunged into those violent waves. In contrast, Burgessí shots of the magnificent ocean view from Chuckís island appear to glow with a kind of peaceful spirituality.
Although avoiding the traditional Hollywood happy ending, director Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump) and writer William Broyles, Jr. (Apollo 13) present a conclusion that celebrates the triumph of hope over despair. Hanks explains, "Chuck realizes the best thing that ever happened to him was almost getting killed in a plane crash and living by himself for four years on an island. If he hadnít gone through that experience --- and lost everything --- he would never have come to understand whatís truly important."
As a reformed Chuck Noland might say, "Just hang in there. Who knows what opportunities will come your way?"
(Released by 20th Century Fox/DreamWorks and rated "PG-13" for intense action sequences and some disturbing images.)