Thursday, 19 March 2009

Movie Review - Cast Away

Robinson Crusoe version 4,503…

I saw this after reading somewhat mixed reviews, though the consensus seemed to be that it was good. With the basic plot being a man (Chuck, played by Tom Hanks) stranded on a desert island and having to fight for survival, the real question was: with the subject has been dealt with so many times before, what could they possibly do here that was any different from the myriad films going before it?

Well, to its credit, it does manage to be a little different.

Inevitably this sort of film requires three stages; before, during and after the shipwreck. (Or, in this case, the air crash.) So I’ll deal with each of these stages in turn.


The character is reasonably well drawn, though he is quite an irritating character in many ways (quite possibly less so to Americans, but we Brits are less tolerant of the managerial speak and the slush). So you don’t feel 100% sympathy for him at first. But then I suppose you don’t need to. The night he flies of he gives an engagement ring to his girlfriend (Helen Hunt – who is fine in this but nothing special), saying those fatal words, “I’ll be right back”.

Overall, this section is necessary but doesn’t quite engage our sympathy. However this is not a problem for 2 main reasons: 1 – it shows you what a good job is done in engaging our sympathies later on in the film, and 2 – certain aspects of his personality which are put to use on the island are given a reason for here, without which they wouldn’t fit into the film.

(Oh, and the plane crash sequence is excellent.)


Once on the island he begins the fight for survival. Although many of the sequences will leave you with a distinct feeling of Déjà vu, I think there has been a pretty good effort to have some new material in here. Some of the sequences are very unsettling, especially where at one stage he has to knock out a rotting tooth with the business end of an ice-skating boot! (He was on a Fed Ex plane, being one of their executives, when the crash occurred. Some of the boxes the plane was carrying washed up on the beach of the island.) Speaking of which, I lost count of the number of times “Fed Ex” was plastered on the screen. This is corporate sponsorship as you’ve never seen it before – and hopefully (though it’s sadly not a realistic hope) will never see again... And the clever thing is, they get free publicity by virtue of the fact that any review, this one included, is bound to mention the fact! Grr… Talk about falling into an obvious trap! :-O

One of these packages is left forever unopened as a symbol of his hope to return home – and, in turn, return the package.

He also needs someone to talk to, so paints a face on a volleyball, which was in one of the packages washed up on the shore. This he names, “Wilson”, which I suspect is another case of corporate sponsorship! Some of the scenes between Chuck and “Wilson” are funny, some unsettling, but very well constructed.
It’s a bit disconcerting, however, when you suddenly find yourself confronted with the words, Ò years later”, with no apparent reason for the jump. But never mind. I won’t spoil it for you by telling you how he gets off the island and eventually rescued.


One of the best things about the film is the way that it doesn’t take the easy option of “meets his true love again, they all live happily ever after”. In the meantime he’s been pronounced dead (and buried), she’s married (his former dentist of all people), and the scenes between them are very well played. The impossibility of what’s happened and what happens now are portrayed brilliantly. I won’t tell you what happens, but all I can really mention is that, after having avoided the easy ending, the film then seems to be heading towards the next logical (but overly clichéd) conclusion, it avoids that and kind of ends without ending.

Cinematography and all that…

The desert island is… well, a desert island. It’s pretty much the same as all other desert islands. The special effects are pretty good when used, with the above-mentioned plane crash particularly good. There are scenes in Russia, which bear some resemblance to the real thing… not bad, but not particularly convincing.

The acting is… well, it’s Tom Hanks. He carries 95% of the film, and is the only character in it most of the time – unless of course you count Wilson. (I personally thought that ball should have won an Oscar for Best Supporting Inanimate Object). Tom Hanks is one of the few actors who can carry most of a film single-handedly, and he does well in his role. But at the end of the day, unless you’re a real fan you’ll be fed up of looking at him by the end of the film. The rest of the acting is okay but nothing special – not that there’s really much of it!


Overall this is a good film and well worth seeing, especially if you like Tom Hanks. (I think he’s a very accomplished actor but am not a particular fan). However, it’s not a great film. I may be slightly biased as I’m really not a great fan of the “man stranded on a desert island” genre anyway. It’s well done I suppose, but when I thought “would I actually want to see it again?”, the answer came back as not really. Maybe if I feel the need to look at a basketball with a face on it again, but I could do that at home if I really wanted...

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