53 – Cast Away

Watch the ads for Robert Zemeckis’ new movie and you’d think that this is a movie about a man stranded on a deserted island, a la Robinson Crusoe. So did I, but Tom Hanks’ character doesn’t wind up on the island until a good 20 minutes of filler material have been used. Filler material, in most movies, is the kind of plot information that seems superfluous at first but is later tied into the plot itself. So we’re 20 minutes into a movie and finally see Chuck Noland (Hanks) on the island. You can see where this review is headed, can’t you?

First off, there’s the title. Cast Away? Why not Castaway? Why make it into two words? A puzzlement, to be sure. I know, I know… nitpicking! No, it’s not! If it’s two words, it says to me someone has been cast away – but Chuck hasn’t been cast away, he’s been marooned. Maybe the makers didn’t want anyone to confuse it with the Survivor TV show. I think they should have gone with the one-word title, but hey – that’s just me.

The movie is a little over two hours long, and in the bulk of that time we follow Chuck’s exploits on the island. We see his trials, his failures, his successes, and his thought processes. And it all really is mesmerizing, as long as you suspend some of your logic processes. This happens with a lot of action/adventure type movies, because the focus is on what’s happening, not why it’s happening. Sometimes you’ll see an illogical chain of events in an action movie, and you’ll dismiss it because you’re there to see the action, not to be bothered with the plot. Well, friends, I am bothered by it! I wondered how Chuck survived the plane crash and why he got out what looked like everything in his pocket just before the plane hit turbulence but once the trouble started he only grabbed his precious pocket watch. I wondered if I was watching a long commercial for Federal Express (see how many logos you can spot).

I’ve seen some people say this is one of the top movies of the year. Sorry, I can’t see that. It’s fun to watch, but the compelling stuff in the middle is surrounded by a beginning and an end that slow down the pacing of the film immeasurably. Sure, I care about Chuck’s beau Kelly (Helen Hunt), and I know that setting up their relationship at the outset is somewhat important. But it’s more than a little contrived when his last words to her before jumping on the plane are “I’ll be right back.” Come on! All of the supporting plot surrounding his adventures on the island seems to be horribly contrived, as if someone said, “Great, love the whole island thing, now throw in some more stuff so we can get over 2 hours out of it.” I mean it all seems almost tacked on, and it’s all too pat. I will say this much, though: the ending is NOT cliched.

Hanks is better than I expected. He’s not really the adventurer type, is he? In some scenes, with his scraggly beard and makeshift clothing, he looks like Lawrence of Arabia or maybe Moses from The Ten Commandments. He effectively shows emotion, determination, perseverence, wit, and ingenuity. I’d also say he ages well, too, but then you have to remember Robert Zemeckis filmed this movie in two installments so he could do What Lies Beneath; this layoff allowed Hanks to transform from girly man Fed Ex dude to strapping strongman (sort of). Everyone else is just extraneous. This is Tom’s game.

Cast Away: 6.5

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