Cast Away


Cast Away

Tom Hanks as Chuck Noland
Helen Hunt as Kelly
Christopher Noth
Nick Searcy

Cast Away is a great film, but it is totally ruined by its own trailer.

Chuck Nolan’s life is run by the clock. As a Fed Ex executive, he’s constantly on the move. That leaves him on the road often and out of touch with his girlfriend Kelly on a regular basis. Over Christmas, he’s called to make an overseas flight and along the way, the plane crashes way off course in the middle of the Pacific. Chuck is the only survivor and miraculously floats in a raft to a small deserted island. He waits for help to come, but it never arrives. Chuck must learn the skills of survival if he’s going to live. Along the way he battles the elements, physical injury, and madness on the island. Will he be able to survive on the island? Will he be rescued? How will such an experience change him? And what will he find if he makes it home? And how will Chuck, Gilligan, and the Skipper fight off the cannibals and save Ginger and Maryann from the gorilla at the same time? (OK, I made that last part up.)

What Worked:
If you haven’t seen the trailer to this film, then you’re in for a real treat. The less you know about it going in, the better. The film is a really interesting concept. Anyone who has every watched Gilligan’s Island has wondered, “What would I do if I were stranded on a deserted island?” This movie explores that in the most realistic manner you’ll ever see. It’s not all pineapples and sunny beaches. Chuck must forage for food, try and start a fire, find water, and more while on the island. He even has a painful bad tooth that he must deal with – something you never saw on Survivor. Chuck soon realizes the necessity of everything we take for granted on a daily basis.

The scenery is especially beautiful, and the effects are seamless with the rest of the film. The plane crash at the beginning is also an incredibly horrifying moment and was vividly created. This is one movie you won’t see shown on airplanes. His time at sea during a storm is also breathtaking.

Tom Hanks does an incredible performance in this role, as you would guess. It demands a lot from him both emotionally and physically. He is truly a changed person between the beginning of the film and the end. He very effectively acts like someone who has been stranded and isolated for a very long time. I don’t think it spoils anything to say he eventually makes it home – you could have guessed that. His homecoming is truly emotional. His reunion with Kelly is a real memorable moment. Overall, this is a very amazing film.

What Didn’t Work:
Never have I been so impressed, yet insulted by filmmakers in my life. Let me explain. First of all, the second movie trailer for Cast Away gave away the entire movie. It told you the beginning, middle, and end all in sequence. It told you what Chuck did on the island, how long he was there, how he got off, and what happened when he got back. The entire movie is shown in the trailer. There are NO surprises in the film except, perhaps, the fate of his volleyball. In fact, the volleyball should be nominated for Best Supporting Actor. If you saw the trailer, then you have no emotional attachment to the characters because you never feel they are in jeopardy. You know their fate in advance. They shot themselves in the foot with their own marketing.

What’s even worse is that director Robert Zemeckis does this on purpose. He did it with the “What Lies Beneath” trailer which also blew the whole movie. Here’s a quote from him from USA Today:

Even director Robert Zemeckis agrees with the approach. “When people go to movies nowadays, they really prefer to know everything about the movie before they see it, ” he says. “We can’t give them everything, but we have to give them enough. It’s a strange alchemy. If you try to be too coy, the audience resents that. And you also can’t be too coy when you’re competing in this marketplace.”

So Zemeckis tells us we want to know the whole movie in advance, so he’s going to give it to us in two minutes for free. Should we be insulted or grateful for saving us $8 on a ticket?

Then, we are insulted yet again by Zemeckis with the ending of the film. During the course of the movie, Chuck keeps one unopened Fed Ex package from the plane wreck which he finally delivers to the owner after getting home. We have a lot of time and emotion invested in this package, yet the film never shows us what is in it. I suppose that’s their way of saying, “Oh, it doesn’t matter what was in it. Use your imagination.” The same goes for the ending of the movie. We don’t know what happens with Chuck. It leaves it totally up in the air. Again, an artsy fartsy ending for the movie where we, the audience, draw our own conclusion. Zemeckis thinks this is the ending we should have, yet it is a totally unsatisfying one.

So we are insulted twice by them in giving away the whole movie, then not giving us a satisfying ending. All because this is what they say the audience wants. They are wrong on both accounts.

Aside from those two major gripes, I did think way too much time and emotional drama was invested in the volleyball. Many long dramatic moments were spent on this volleyball, especially towards the end. I realize the volleyball represents Chuck’s last grip on sanity and hope, but I never bought into it, so I didn’t care when those dramatic moments came. They were wasted to me.

So, this is a great movie, but it his hurt most by its own marketing.