Cast Away is a 2000 film directed by Robert Zemeckis starring Tom Hanks. This is the classic movie that everyone has seen already but I got there twenty years late. This meant that approached it with a lot of expectations and some prejudices, obviously. Well, I’m happy to say that the film surprised me and that I enjoyed it much more than I thought before pressing Play on the Bluray player’s remote!
I start with the plot, although everyone probably knows it. Chuck Noland (Tom Hanks) is a diligent FedEx employee (an express shipping company) in Memphis and often travels around the world for work: for example, at the beginning of the film he’s in Moscow to give some training to those at the local branch. He has a girlfriend, Kelly (Helen Hunt), who he loves madly, but he has too many things to do and little time to do them. One day, the FedEx plane with which Chuck is flying over the Pacific has an accident and crashes on a desert island, and he’s the only survivor…
I avoid spoilers at least in this first part of the review for those who haven’t seen the film. The first part, the one in which we meet the character of Tom Hanks, is the classic premise of the dramatic comedy in which the protagonist neglects the important things in life such as family, love and friendship (think of the lack of empathy for the fate of the wife of his friend Stan, Nick Searcy). Then he embarks on a journey (whether psychological or an actual one, it doesn’t matter) and he comes out of it as a better person. What I liked about the film is that, although it follows this structure, there are surprises in the finale and the journey is really impressive.
Contrary to the vast majority of the world’s population, I don’t particularly adore Tom Hanks. He seems credible to me only in the romantic comedies of the eighties that made him famous and every time I see him in another role he always seems to me out of place (probably the last film I saw him in and where he didn’t convince me at all was Bridge of Spies, 2015). In Cast Away, he worked really well in all three parts of the film, where he essentially plays three different characters, since Chuck changes a lot during the course of the movie.
We now inevitably enter spoiler territory (which Zemeckis did before me too: in the trailer, he inserted one of the key scenes of the final part of the film, arguing that viewers don’t want surprises at the cinema). If the first part of the film is exactly what I expected, I found the second part, the one on the island, really surprising. Chuck is a normal man, albeit with knowledge of sailing which then proves to be fundamental, and seeing him survive in such a hostile environment is entertaining for almost an hour with virtually no need for dialogue. Remarkable! And then the final part fortunately doesn’t end as expected: the love between him and Kelly is not over, of course, but she has moved on and the two don’t get back together as it happens in a thousand other films of the genre. Above all, the Chuck who has spent four years isolated is not the same person he was before: he’s more thoughtful, he understands what matters in life, and he wouldn’t be capable of ruining Kelly’s new family!
This doesn’t mean that the ending is depressing, after all the director is Zemeckis and his message is always that of men who triumph over the adversities of life! The movie has a sweet ending, with Chuck looking towards his future which, we imagine, includes that same Bettina (played by the very unfortunate Lari White, who died very young) who’s divorcing her husband, we know that from the beginning of the film. And what’s in the mysterious package that Chuck delivers to her after so many years? To this question, Zemeckis jokingly replied that it was a completely waterproof solar battery satellite phone. He’s a funny guy!
In my opinion the fact that the ending is not so trivial reinforces the message of the film on the need to live our lives without obsessing about wanting to do a thousand things in the short time we have and neglecting the affections, which is what really matters. And, message aside, the more than two hours of film flow very well with a rhythm that is certainly not dictated by tight dialogues or enveloping music (indeed, there’s no music at all for most of the movie). The silence of this film conveys many emotions, and the few dialogues with the famous Wilson don’t break the atmosphere in the least.
The only things that didn’t convince me too much are some scenes on the island where the light changes a little too much between one cut and the next, some night scenes that were clearly shot at daytime, and some digitally-modified images a little too flashy for my taste (but who am I to criticize the director of photography Don Burgess, long time collaborator of Robert Zemeckis?). In short, I’m happy I finally watched this movie! Ciao!
PS: Incredibly, FedEx apparently didn’t pay anything to be featured in the film so prominently. I say “incredibly” because Zemeckis is the king of product placement, just watch Back to the Future!