A movie which centres around one man trapped on an island for five years definitely runs the risk of being a bit..well…dull. While such an ordeal might make a compelling narrative for a novel, it seems hard to imagine how a film with only one character for a significant portion of its running time could possibly retain anyone’s attention for 2 hours.
So it is definitely to Tom Hanks’ immense credit that he manages to keep 2000’s Cast Away, not only watchable, but highly entertaining for the duration of his character, Chuck’s enforced isolation. Obviously his costar, the volleyball that he converses with, deserves some credit too. Indeed, when Wilson the volleyball is lost at sea towards the end of the movie, it is genuinely one of the most heartbreaking scenes I can recall seeing in many a movie.
Although a significant part of the film is rightly dedicated to the period that Chuck is, as per the title of the movie, ‘cast away’, director Robert Zemeckis is actually quite astute in not over-egging that particular pudding. Instead we are given the, quite shocking, juxtaposition of Chuck at the beginning of his battle for survival and a much changed Chuck in his final days on the island (filming was actually put on hold for a year to allow Hanks to achieve the remarkable physical transformation between the two stages of Chuck’s journey) but none of the intervening years. Allowing the viewer to draw their own conclusions about Chuck’s ordeal is far more effective than a detailed exposition and it allows the movie more time to focus on Chuck’s life before the island, and the consequences of his five year absence from society; scenes which do allow for other characters and consequently dialogue.
Really though, the movie is all about Tom Hanks’ performance, which is quite astonishing.
Score for Christmasishness
Cast Away does have some Christmas(ish) credentials. The beginning of the movie is, quite visibly, set around Christmas time and the scenes immediately before Chuck boards his fateful flight appear to be taking place on Christmas day, initially at a family Christmas dinner and then a more intimate exchanging of gifts between Chuck and, Kelly, the love of his life. Indeed there is every chance that it’s still Christmas Day when Chuck washes up on the island, and he’s wearing what looks very much like a Christmas jumper. It’s not an especially happy Christmas as they go, but the movie does merit its Christmas(ish) stripes.