Director Robert Zemeckis has an impressive resume, being behind the
camera on such diverse films as Back to the Future, Romancing
the Stone, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and Forrest Gump.
His most daring and risky film has to be Cast Away. Released
in 2000, this film should have been a flop. Throughout most of the
film there is little dialog, only one actor on screen, and little in the
way of action, a sure receipt for a yawn-fest. With Tom Hanks in
the lead role and Zemeckis' trained eye directing, he created one of the
finest films of the year.
Noland (Tom Hanks) is a FedEx executive in charge of making sure that the
companies various branches run on time. Famous within the company
because he once stole a kid's bike to finish his route when his delivery
truck broke down, Noland flies all over the world to teach the various
offices the importance of keeping one eye on the clock.
Chuck is so busy that he even leaves Christmas dinner to catch a plane
when his beeper goes off. His girlfriend Kelly (Helen Hunt) drives
him to the depo and he has just enough time to propose before he flies
off. The flight isn't a smooth one however, and after the plane veers
hundreds of miles off its course to avoid a storm, something disastrous
happens that causes the plane to crash in the middle of the Pacific.
Escaping the wreckage with an inflatable raft, Chuck spends the night floating
at sea and wakes up the next morning on the shore of a small, rocky island.
with only the clothes on his back and the contents of a few FedEx packages
that washed up on shore, Chuck has to learn how to survive. With
only a volleyball with a face painted on it (which he names "Wilson") for
company, Chick has to face the elements and, what's worse, terrible loneliness.
Tom Hanks did an amazing job in this film. Famously taking a year
off in the middle of filming so he could grow his hair out and loose a
reported 50 pounds to realistically portray Noland's physical changes while
on the island, Hanks does more than look the part. He's able to carry
the entire second act by himself with almost no dialog. With only
a look and his actions, Hanks is able to relate how terribly lonely he
feels and how tough it is to survive on the island.
the movie's credit, there are no huge action sequences aside from the plane
crash itself. Chuck doesn't have to fight wild boars or pirates,
and there are no shark attacks or poisonous snakes to battle. The
narrative is driven by more mundane matters of survival. The island
is a place where a minor toothache can turn into a life threatening ordeal
and a where he has to work all day to meet his basic needs for food and
water. Watching this could have been an exercise in tedium,
but the realism and authentic feel with which the film is presented avoids
that. How he uses his limited resources to meet these needs and the
decisions he makes are what makes the movie so captivating.
It's interesting to note that the name of the film is two words instead
of one. The single word, castaway, refers to a person while "cast
away" means to put aside or discard. That's a key theme of the film.
Chuck is forced to give up many of the things he holds dear including his
reliance on time and the worth he finds in his job. He's reluctant
to give up the last one however. When he finds 8 or 9 FedEx packages
soon after the wreck that have washed up on shore, the first thing he does
is sort them as if they're going to be sent out soon. He doesn't
open them until he gets desperate, and even then there is one box that
he leaves sealed. Keeping this package safe an unopened, though he
knows that he'll never be rescued from the island gives him a sense of
purpose that defines him. At the end of the film, Chuck once again
finds himself in a situation where he has to cast off some of the things
that have kept him going for so long.
The Blu-ray Disc:
The 1.85:1, 1080p, AVC MPEG-4 encoded image is just spectacular.
This is a disc that will really show off your home theater. While
the very first scenes are a little drab and dull as far as the colors go,
that was an intentional decision on the director's part and this disc reproduces
the cold dreary Moscow cityscape with a lot of detail. The disc really
starts to shine once the narrative moves to the island. The cinematography
is simply stunning with bright vibrant green trees, a beautiful lagoon,
and an achingly blue sky. Even the white caps of the waves as they
roll into the shore are full of detail and texture. This section
of the film has a lot of eye pop, where the image seems to leap off the
screen. Definitely one of the better Blu-ray discs that I've seen
The film comes with a lossless DTS HD 5.1 soundtrack that really brings
the movie to life. The perfect compliment to the excellent video,
this soundtrack really adds a lot to the viewing experience. There's
not a lot of dialog in the film but that doesn't mean the audio is flat
or boring. This track brings Chuck's experiences to life by filling
the room with island sounds. The crashing of the waves on the beach,
the thudding of coconuts as they fall from the trees, and the rustle of
the brush as the wind blows through all come together to create an impressive
Even more impressive are the storms and the plane crash where soundtrack
really fills the room with a sound so powerful you can almost touch it.
The chaos of the plane going down and the terror of being in the Pacific
in the middle of a storm are created by the soundtrack even more than by
the visuals. From start to finish, this is an excellent sounding
While the A/V quality is impeccable, Fox really dropped the ball when
it comes to the bonus material. All of the documentaries and video
interviews from the 2-disc SD DVD are missing. What we're left with
is a commentary track of sorts, a trailer (which should NOT be viewed before
the movie as it gives away way too many plot points), and a pop-up trivia
track that's pretty mundane. The commentary audio features interviews
and Q&A sessions with director Robert Zemeckis, visual effects team
members Ken Ralston and Carey Villegas, sound designer Randy Thom, and
director of photography Don Burgess, which were then edited together.
I found it a little disappointing since there was a lot that wasn't addressed.
They talked about the CGI effects that were used and the many problems
they encountered during filming, but this mainly technical track skipped
over many of the themes of the film, which is too bad.
Looking back at the films of 2000, Cast Away has stood the test
of time much better than other films from that year. Tom Hanks was
nominated for an Oscar but lost out to Russell Crowe's performance in Gladiator,
a film that seems old and tired today. Cast Away is a gutsy
film that takes a lot of chances. With a wonderful performance by
Hanks and an intriguing story, this film is recommended. The
Blu-ray presentation is wonderful with both sight and sound being top notch,
and it's only the lack of extras that are available on the SD version that
prevents a higher rating.
Note: The images in this review are not from the Blu-ray disc and do
not necessarily represent the image quality on the disc.