Wednesday, February 1, 2012

100 Movies - No. 20: Cast Away

20. Cast Away (2000)
Drama, 143 minutes
Directed by Robert Zemeckis
Starring Tom Hanks

Tom Hanks was probably the biggest box office draw for around 10 years, starting with Philadelphia in 1993. Like Meryl Streep, his performances haven't always won the awards they deserved. We expect excellence from Hanks and Streep, and it's never easy to add an Oscar after you have already won twice. Cast Away sees Hanks give one of his best performances, and that's saying a lot.

The opening part of the film introduces us to the life of Chuck Noland (Hanks). He works for FedEx and is obsessed with time. Everything has to happen according to schedule or he considers himself a failure. Noland is in love with Kelly Frears (Helen Hunt), but his life is too busy for him to make her his main priority. They have to exchange Christmas gifts in the car on their way to the airport because he doesn't make time for anything more significant. This is a common theme in the lives of too many people. We rush around, earning as much money as we can, barely slowing down long enough to spend time with the people we love. You don't miss it until it's gone.

Noland's plane crashes and he's the sole survivor. He manages to swim ashore and finds himself alone on an island. This isn't a new idea, but the execution is excellent. Noland is used to a comfortable life and has to learn how to survive in his new surroundings. Where will he live? What will he eat? Will he need to protect himself? What if he's ill or in pain? How will he remain sane? How will he escape and make his way back to civilization?

I enjoy Cast Away because it's such a peaceful movie. All we hear are natural sounds while Noland is trapped on the island. There isn't even any musical score during this extended sequence. It helps us realize what it is like to be completely alone. How would we adapt and survive? Would we have the mental strength to seek escape? It's an examination of how human beings think, and that always appeals to me.

If you like Cast Away:

If you like films which explore the psychological aspect of being alone, take a look at I Am Legend or the previously mentioned 127 Hours. If you're simply a fan of Hanks, he was at his best in films such as Apollo 13, The Green Mile and Forrest Gump.

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