Cast Away


The last time that Tom Hanks and director Robert Zemeckis collaborated was on the hugely popular Forrest Gump, which won its star his second Oscar and continued Zemeckis' string of hit blockbusters. But, while reteaming must have seemed like a total no-brainer, this is no Gumpison Crusoe, - rather it's a surprisingly slight, modestly engaging update/spin on Daniel Defoe's classic, penned by Apollo 13 screenwriter William Broyles Jr from an idea by Hanks himself.

And, to be honest, it's not a bad one. After the opening half-hour's worth of navel-gazing exposition, the movie hits its stride, delivering the most knuckle-whitening aircraft smash since Alive. We're given a pilot's eye-view of a plane nose-diving into a thunderously churning ocean, with Noland tossed around inside. Then, of course, he's washed up on that desert island, but interestingly, he's not given much of a tropical paradise to inhabit. His isle is literally a rocky outcrop with a smallish beach and cave. There's no jungle to explore, no mammals to tame or eat, no Man Friday for company...

It's a smart touch, keeping the character even more self-contained than you'd expect, and the film makes much of his search for food, his desperation to make fire, and his inventive use of the few Fed Ex parcels that wash up on the beach with him. (You'll wonder what sort of deal the company struck for such extreme product placement - their logo has more screentime than Helen Hunt!)

Zemeckis has long pioneered the use of computer effects in his work, so to have one actor alone on an island for almost an entire movie represents a brave move for the helmer. For both men actually, with Hanks rarely off the screen for the film's two-and-a-half-hour-plus duration. However, while he conveys the isolation of his character with little dialogue and just a hint of madness, you rarely get past the fact it's simply Hanks the actor, not Noland the Fed Ex troubleshooter, who's stranded.

Okay, so he famously spent months growing a beard and losing 55lbs to authentically replicate his character's deterioration. But he's so porky to start with that, when we see him again, he doesn't appear that emaciated, and it makes you wonder why he went to such effort. Besides, tangly beard and dreads notwithstanding, he looks much the better for it.

At least Zemeckis graciously shows restraint with the conclusion and, while the final half-hour does drag, he spares us the more obvious, saccharine-coated nonsense, opting instead for something far more dignified. Still, there's no getting away from the fact that Cast Away is a long-winded reminder not to take your loved ones for granted.


Hanks is as watchable as ever and Zemeckis cements his rep as one of Hollywood's most proficient helmers. But given the talent, you'd be forgiven for expecting a more substantial film - and, despite the method fasting, a third Oscar looks unlikely for Hanks.

Film Details

User Reviews

    • BLewin7

      Dec 7th 2008, 15:21


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    • Marshall85

      Sep 3rd 2009, 14:12


      I love this film, Wilson is my Hero when he floats away it almost as heart breaking as when big Arnie gets melted in T2, I saw an awful film called "Hell in the Pacific" on tv made me think of Cast Away and how much better it was

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    • FBEXanthopoul

      Jan 21st 2012, 16:25

      3 by Angeliki Coconi A 2000 (comedy) drama written by William Broyles Jr. and directed by Robert Zemechis, Cast Away tells the story of a FedEx employee, who spends four years of his life stuck on a deserted island, after his plane crashes in the middle of the South Pacific ocean. Having just about managed to stay alive, after many unsuccessful attempts to return to society, the isolated man finally escapes the island and is found by fellow humans and returned to the world of FedEx, only to find that his girlfriend is now married and has a child with Big from Sex And The City. Starring the great Tom Hanks as Chuck Noland, the movie was filmed in two stages. During phase one, Hanks put fifty pounds on, and the scenes of him as a time-conscious middle-aged employee were shot. After this, the crew stopped filming for a year, while waiting for the actor to lose all his extra weight and more, in order to shoot the island scenes, on Monuriki of the Mamanuca Islands. During the time that Hanks was starving, the director and crew moved elsewhere and made What Lies Beneath, starring Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer. When screenwriter William Broyles Jr. began researching for the movie, he consulted a group of survival experts on how his protagonist could use random things found in FedEx parcels washed up on shore with Chuck, like a party dress, ice skates and video tapes. He also asked for some insight on what could serve as Chuck’s personified friend during his four deserted years, but no answer excited him, which is why he chose to strand himself on a remote beach, looking for the perfect object himself. When a volleyball showed up from the water, Wilson was born. Wilson and Chuck share a relationship that feels far more passionate and justified than the one between Chuck and his serious girlfriend, Kelly (played by Helen Hunt). Having drawn a blood face onto Wilson, he is more real and alive than any of the other characters that Chuck interacts with in the movie, and even the fights between the protagonist and his best friend are stronger and more emotional than any scene he shares with Kelly. Not to say that Helen Hunt is not convincing, which she is, to a great extent, it’s just that Kelly’s character lacks the warmth and sentiment that Wilson is given. A woman deeply in love, who soon finds it in her to move on with her life, after her man crashes in the middle of the ocean, is certainly not a catch. Wilson would never do that, and in Lost, Penny wouldn’t do that either… Overall, the film is a must-see, for Robert Zemechis’ haunting but stunning direction, and William Boyles Jr.’s highly intelligent script. But what’s more, Cast Away deserves a place in our movie favourites for Tom Hanks’ powerful and greatly convincing performance. Very few actors could occupy the screen for so long all by themselves, with not much dialogue or movement, and still keep their audience gripped. And Tom Hanks does it, and he does it well. Angeliki Coconi at

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