Cast Away
(Click here for Internet Movie Database entry)

This may be the most interesting movie of the year. Cast Away is not your average Hollywood Blockbuster that you'd expect seeing Tom Hanks and Helen Hunt starring in a movie directed by Robert Zemeckis.  It has the feel of small, Indie film. I will try not to tell too much because even though there aren't any surprise plot twists or surprise endings, this movie does surprise you over and over. This much I can tell since everyone in the world has seen the trailer by now. There are really only two characters that matter in this movie and one of them isn't on the screen for about 90% of the time. Tom Hanks plays an efficiency expert for Fedex and his whole world revolves around making the most out of every second. He lives with the love of his life (Helen Hunt) who is a PhD student about to defend her thesis.  Hanks gets an emergency call just before Christmas and has to jet off across the Pacific. She gives him an old pocket watch with her picture in it.  As Hanks leaves, he asks Hunt to marry him. The plane crashes after being off course and Hanks washes up on a small tropical island far away from where anyone thinks the plane went down.  So he is stranded. We now follow Hanks life for the next four years he spends on the island.  And here is where this film begins to diverge from the path taken by every similar movie made previously.  The story stays with Hanks for the whole time he is on the island.  Rather than follow the story of the search for him and the story of his girlfriend, we know nothing about what's happening in the outside world. So we feel Hank's isolation very strongly.  Another difference is that this is the first lost-on-a-desert-island story, including the recent Six Days Seven Nights, where no pirates attack the island at any time in the movie! Hanks is totally alone on the island with nothing but a few Fedex packages that washed up with him to help him survive.  His now-broken pocket watch becomes a metaphor for his life.  On the island, time stands still for him and for us as he gazes at the picture of Hunt. He brings a terrible feeling of yearning to the screen in Cast Away.  It is really a very simple story. There is almost no action other than the plane crash. Everything moves along very slowly but it is compelling and it draws you in until you feel you are living Hank's life. I wanted to stay and watch it again when it was over.  Much of this is due to the minimalist direction of Zemeckis, well known for Romancing the Stone, Back to the Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Forrest Gump, and Contact.  I love Tom Hanks and this is another fantastic role for him in a series of fantastic roles including Sleepless in Seattle, Philadelphia, Forrest Gump, Apollo 13, and Saving Private Ryan.  Helen Hunt is amazing here and even though she probably spends less than 10 minutes on the screen, there's a million times more chemistry between her and Hanks than she had with Mel Gibson in What Women Want.  I won't say too much but you know that Hanks gets rescued and has to go back to a world that has gone on without him for four years. The scenes at the end when Hanks returns home are heart-wrenching and among the most romantic I've ever seen. I read another review that commented that there is another character in the movie, Fedex. This is the ultimate product placement film and Fedex is doing something that is never done which is to show something bad associated with their product. It's a Fedex plane that crashes with Hanks on board. But I think they were right to do it. Fedex is an integral part of this movie from beginning to end and one gets a nice feeling of them as a company.  When he's stranded on the island, Hanks keeps one Fedex package unopened, hoping to deliver it one day.  After you see the movie, you may have the same question that I have, "What's in the damn package?" You may not like Cast Away as much as I do but this is a disturbing, different film. For one thing, it may be the first film where a volleyball gets an Oscar nomination. It isn't an easy film to watch but go and see it.