stars out of Five
Beautifully shot emotionally moving drama with an Oscar-worthy performance
by Tom Hanks.
Tom Hanks stars as Chuck Noland, a trouble-shooter for Fed Ex, who flies all
over the world at a moment’s notice, in order to deliver impassioned
lectures on time-management with the central edict that "we can never allow
ourselves the sin of losing track of time". On Christmas Eve, he effectively
proposes to his long-term girlfriend Kelly Frears (Helen Hunt), just as he’s
called away to solve a problem in Asia. "I’ll be right back", he assures
her but, barely an hour later, his plane gets caught in a horrendous storm,
drifts severely off course somewhere over the Pacific and then crashes
horribly killing everyone but him. Noland washes up on a deserted island
and suddenly the man for whom every second is precious, has nothing but
time on his hands and has to adjust to his new environment in order to
The first thing to say about Cast Away is this: if you’ve seen the trailer,
and you’re thinking you’ve already seen the movie, then think again.
Granted, the ridiculously long trailer gives away far too much, but it also
leads you to think that the ending is going to be very different from the
actual ending to the film, so don’t let that put you off. The second thing
to say is that if you have an aversion to onscreen plane crashes, then this
may not be the film for you, as the crash sequence is frighteningly
realistic (shot using a handheld camera) and seems to go on forever (the
whole sequence lasts around ten minutes).
If you can get past the crash sequence, however, the film has plenty of
rewards in store, as Hanks gradually comes to terms with his exile on the
island, and slowly learns to fend for himself (catching fish, breaking
coconuts, making fire and so on). These scenes are brilliantly handled by
both Zemeckis and Hanks, and you feel every bit of Noland’s frustration – by
the time he takes his first sip of coconut milk, you’ll be as relieved as he
However, it’s with the arrival of Noland’s bizarre ‘companion’ - a
volleyball that washes up in one of the FedEx packages, which Noland paints
a face on and nicknames ‘Wilson’, after the brand-name - that the film
becomes something extraordinary, as Hanks forges a genuinely affecting
relationship with the volleyball (which, naturally, allows him to speak the
majority of his dialogue), and which culminates in one of the most bizarrely
moving scenes you’ll see all year.
It has to be said, Hanks is fantastic in the role, and he clearly put
everything into the performance, including piling on the pounds beforehand,
then taking a year off (Zemeckis shut down the production and made What Lies
Beneath in the meantime) to both slim down and grow the necessary hair and
beard (yes, it’s all his). The result is an astonishing performance, which
should guarantee him yet another Oscar nomination come February.
As for the ending to the film, you’ll either love it or you’ll hate it, but
Zemeckis has to be given credit for at least trying something different.
Cast Away then, is well-worth seeing – an enjoyable, moving drama in which
you’ll believe a man can love a volleyball. Highly recommended.