Cast Away

Cast Away suffers from trying to be two films instead of one. That said, it is still enjoyable, and powerful at times. The first film is the story of a man trying desperately to survive on a deserted island. The second is that of his homecoming after four years, and his readjustment to a life that ordinary people take for granted. There was some clamor over trailers revealing the fact that he did survive, and in a way, it was a bad thing. The movie does not spend enough time on his return to adequately convey how moving it is. Cast Away is eagerly anticipated primarily because it is the reteaming of Tom Hanks and Robert Zemeckis. The last time they made a film together, Forrest Gump, it went on to commercial and critical acclaim.

Here, Hanks (The Green Mile, Saving Private Ryan) is Chuck Noland, a hard working systems engineer for Federal Express. Noland constantly flies around the globe, living by the clock. His girlfriend Kelly (Helen Hunt, What Women Want, Dr. T and the Women) understands this, and planning events together is a monumental task. The hectic prologue in Russia is there primarily to show how ordered and hectic his life was. This drastically changes when the plane he is on crashes in the Pacific. Noland finds himself on an island. Time has no concept there, and Noland must learn to fend for himself. For nearly an hour, there is no background music and little dialogue as Noland learns how to survive.

The movie slows down considerably, but thanks to Hanks' talent, it still remains interesting. FedEx packages begin washing ashore (Cast Away at times seems like an ode to FedEx). Screenwriter William Broyles, Jr. (Apollo 13, Entrapment) has Noland talk to a volleyball he names Wilson, mainly to show his possibly deteriorating mental health and to let the audience gain some insight into his mind. The sequence goes on a little too long, and only focuses on his initial time there. It skips over the majority of time Noland is on the island. It returns nearly four years later, with the camera focusing on a visibly different Noland. Production shut down for almost a year so that Hanks could lose weight and grow a mangy beard.

The third act is by far the most interesting, and unfortunately gets short-changed. There are so many aspects of Noland's return that would be fascinating if explored, but director Zemeckis (What Lies Beneath, Forrest Gump) chooses to focus on the relationship between Noland and Kelly. Their renewed interaction is strong, yet feels rushed and obligatory only for the ending. Both Hanks and Hunt give restrained performances. Their expressions and eyes speak volumes more than their actions and words. Hanks in particular here shows longing and loss in his eyes. There is enough material here for two movies but no element of synergy. In the end, it is Hanks, Zemeckis and Hunt who are able to elevate the Cast Away to a higher level, letting people forget the many missed opportunities.

Haro Rates It: Not Bad.
2 hours, 23 minutes, Rated PG-13 for intense action sequences and some disturbing images.

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