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Cast Away

October 9, 2006

What happens when you are confronted in life with a situation that challenges your values, and your way of thinking? How would you feel if you are forced to live a life radically different from what you have been accustomed to? How does it feel when you are yanked out of your comfortable bubble into something out of your worst nightmares?
Cast Away starring Tom Hanks and directed by Robert Zemeckis, grapples with these issues, as it explores the life of the hero marooned on an island akin to Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe’s classic novel.Tom Hanks is Chuck Noland, an executive of Fed Ex. Like any other normal modern day Joe, Chuck is perpetually time driven, harried, and on the rush. His life is in a rut of delivery, schedules, time management. And yes with a lovely girl friend Kelly Frears( Helen Hunt) to boot. Until one fine day, his plane crashes and he is the sole survivor on a remote tropical island.
Chuck now has to grapple with an existence totally different from one he has been used to. The man who set so much store by time, now finds he is totally out of time. And so begins his life on the island, which is basically a saga of survival. What he has taken for granted in his normal life, seems like an act of discovery to him. And his only friend, or companion, with whom he can share his feelings is a volleyball called Wilson. And then begins his attempt to do things which most of us do without much concern in our daily life, finding food, cooking, heating and just living.
After 4 years he manages to create a make shift raft and escapes from the island. But when he comes back he finds everything changed. Kelly assuming him to be dead, has married some one else. Most of his friends have changed and more importantly Chuck has to deal with a totally new perspective in life. How does he react to this? Does he meet Kelly again? What becomes of Chucks life now?Hanks and Zemeckis had come up with a classic in 1994’s Forrest Gump about the story of a hero with below average intelligence, who comes up in life.

And their pairing again, doesn’t at all disappoint movie lovers.One actor in 80 minutes of the movie, sparse dialogue, no rabble rousing background score, no thrilling encounters with sharks, savages, wild animals and yet Zemeckis still manages to hold our interest in the movie. The hero doesn’t get into any wild adventures, yet the very act of doing normal things is depicted in such a way, that we get involved.

One of the best scenes in the movie is where Chuck learns how to make fire. Now making fire is something not many of us would even consider a task. But by putting this task against a backdrop of hero marooned on an island, the director wonderfully brings out as the irony involved. We get taken in by Chuck’s attempts to make fire, and finally when he does it, we share his sense of exhilaration and joy.

Cast Away works in the way Zemeckis wonderfully uses silence and expressions to create an impact. Like in the scene, when Chuck comes back from the island, he wakes around a table laden with rich food, and he just picks them up and looks at it. The irony is wonderfully shown here, the hero had to live on a starvation diet and now when he sees the table laden with all the food, he simply cant bring himself to eat it. But what brings about the genius of Zemeckis is that he takes a concept, weaves out a superb story around it and not once does he compromise on the artistic integrity.

I mean doing a movie which revolves around a single character for the major part, and still managing to keep interest alive is something special. Cast Away is not your typical Hollywood blockbuster. It rambles along at a leisurely place, but doesn’t drag anywhere. Doesn’t have any special effects or encounters with sharks or snakes. Doesn’t have grandstanding dialogue or dramatic confrontation. But yet it still manages to hold your interest.

And yes some great dialog too from the movie:
“We might just make it. Did that thought ever cross your brain? Well regardless I would rather take my chance out there on the ocean, that to stay here and die on this island spending the rest of my life talking to a god damn VOLLEYBALL”.
“Hey, you want to hear something funny? My dentist’s name is James Spalding”
Cast Away belongs totally to Tom Hanks, if he was outstanding in Forrest Gump, in Cast Away he just blows you away with one of the best performances you would get to see in a very long time. He makes you feel with him, empathize with him, and at once stage, you forget your watching Tom Hanks, you see a character called Chuck Noland.
Cant say the same about his heroine, Helen Hunt. She is totally mediocre, and doesn’t impress at all in the least with her acting.
Alan Silvestri’s musical score is soothing and gentle, not going over board at any time of the movie. And yes the photography wonderfully captures the tropical island and the US city of Memphis.
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