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Cast Away

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All-Reviews.com Movie Review: Cast Away

Starring: Tom Hanks, Helen Hunt
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 143 Minutes
Release Date: December 2000
Genre: Drama


*Also starring: Viveka Davis, Valerie Wildman



Review by MrBrown
3 stars out of 4

Given that _Cast_Away_'s entire story course is indiscreetly divulged in its trailer, it is easy to blame the Fox marketing department for the air of disappointment that comes with watching the film. And, indeed, they do shoulder a lot of the blame, for the story holds absolutely no suspense for anyone who's seen the widely-played trailer; the outcome is never in doubt, and at times it is possible for one to count the minutes before certain already-known plot points occur.

That latter scenario is possible, but not probable, and that is due in large part to Tom Hanks, who reteams with his _Forrest_Gump_ director Robert Zemeckis for this ambitious drama. A large portion of the film is a one-man show, and Hanks more than pulls off the difficult, often wordless task. Since he has won so many awards for past work, it is tempting for skeptics to turn their noses up and gag at the prospect of yet another Oscar nomination for Hanks. But his terrific work here, coming with the seal of approval of the New York Film Critics Circle (who awarded him their Best Actor trophy this year), is proof positive that he is one of the most gifted and versatile acting talents of our time. It just so happens that he has won a number of accolades for past work and that he is enormously popular with the general public.

Hanks plays Federal Express employee Chuck Noland, whose workaholic tendencies tear him away from girlfriend Kelly Frears (a simply adequate Helen Hunt) and onto a Malaysia-bound plane on Christmas. The plane goes down, as does everyone on the plane save Chuck, who is left to fend for himself on a deserted island. With only a volleyball companion named Wilson by his side, Chuck undergoes a years-long emotional and psychological transformation that is even more dramatic than his physical one.

Zemeckis plays the engrossing Chuck-on-the-island meat of the film perfectly--as in, as close to reality as possible. There is no score, just the ambient source noise of the largely sun-drenched setting. He and writer William Broyles Jr. also don't employ a voiceover or, even worse, make Chuck think out loud; like anyone in his situation, Chuck does utter a word here and there--mostly when overcome by emotion or excitement--but for the most part, he remains silent. Again, credit goes to Hanks for clearly conveying those thoughts in his face without speaking a single word.

As I have stated earlier, the Fox marketing department is not the only target for blame over _Cast_Away_'s underachievement. Make no mistake--the film is a fascinating and thought-provoking entertainment, propelled by one of the best performances of the year. But it never quite develops into the great film that it, at times, flirts with becoming, and that is due to the script. I won't pull a Fox myself and give away how the film turns out, but the resolution of the film and to the provocative issues it raises is rushed, overly tidy, and not completely satisfying. Instead of soaring from the strong buildup that preceded it, the ending just coasts along on the good will it fostered in the previous passages.

Who does soar, however, is Hanks, and his already-complex performance just deepens in the final act. On paper, there isn't much to Chuck, yet the viewer grows to care a great deal about him. Part of that can be written off as a side benefit of Hanks' innate likability (which has never been more valuable to a role), but like any great acting display, Hanks fills in the blanks and brings the character to full-bodied life. _Cast_Away_ may ultimately underachieve, but the soul that Hanks brings to the role--and the film--must not be underrated.

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