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USA 2000
Directed by
Robert Zemeckis
143 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

Cast Away

Although Robert Zemeckis lays on America values with a shovel in his opening and his film could be accused of being an outrageous case of product placement, at least the first element redeemed by the film’s main action and core theme: the Robinson Crusoe story of one man’s survival, far, far away from all that sustains him, consciously and otherwise.

Tom Hanks plays Chuck Noland, an all-round nice guy and devoted trouble-shooting manager for FedEx. He lives in Memphis and is soon to be married to divorcee, Kelly (Helen Hunt). It’s Christmas and leaves a big family to go and sort out problems in Malaysia. But his plane goes down and Chuck, the sole survivor, finds himself stranded on a desert island where he lives for four years, his only friend being a painted volleyball he calls Wilson.

If the set-up is almost unbelievably cheesy, the survivalist section of the film, arrived at by the convincingly-executed plane crash,  really works because Zemeckis and Hanks keep it real. When we watch Chuck try to open a coconut or being pounded by waves we are watching Hanks trying to open a coconut and being pounded by waves. Zemeckis and screenwriter William Broyles Jr not only maintain the integrity of this section of the film, with no cutting back to Stateside and without contrived incidents to gee up the excitement.

Hanks who had worked with the director on 1994's Oscar-winning Forrest Gump gives an outstanding performance (he was Oscar-nominated but lost to Russell Crowe for Gladiator) as a man who must survive physical deprivation and psychological isolation. He is even more effective in the film’s third act when Chuck has been saved and returned Stateside to find that Kelly has married and started a family. 

Although these days his condition might be called post-traumatic stress disorder the focus is somewhat softer, displaying Chuck’s estrangement from his former life and acceptance that what has been done has been done.  There is a return to the American mythos here with a rather obvious metaphor of crossroads and a connection with some lady welder that I wasn’t too clear about, all tending towards an overly tidy resolution but as far as mainstream American film-making goes, this is a tip-top example.




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