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Cast Away"Cast Away" on DVD

No Man Is an Island?

by Johnny Bray

It's amazing how a talented actor and director can team up to make an excellent movie which is just as much a commercial.

Tom Hanks stars in Cast Away, the latest film from Robert Zemeckis.

Hanks is Chuck Noland, a Fed Ex inspector whose entire life revolves around time. He's very very into his job (who wouldn't be?) and loves his girlfriend (Helen Hunt) very much.

Being a big wig for Fed Ex, his job requires him to travel all around the world. Which means a lot of time spent on airplanes.

Of course, as Murphy's Law would have it, the one time he says "I'll be right back" to his girl, is the one time he experiences a little too much turbulence. The plane crashes, and Noland finds a life boat and drifts away from the wreckage.

From there, he hits an island and becomes a castaway.

And after that point, the movie ceases to be about a man alone on an island. It then becomes a movie about the love between a man and his volleyball. As it just so happens that many Fed Ex packages wash up on shore with Noland. What is very neat about the movie is how they weren't all full of food and clothing, and things that you would actually need on an island. Most of them are full of worthless things like figure skates and a dress. However, Noland, who quickly remembers everything he learned from Gilligan's Island, uses what he has in order to survive. There's a really disturbing scene where he devises a way to get rid of his rotting tooth. Even I found myself cringing at the thought of it.

The beginning and end of the movie are not nearly as well done as the rest of it. It takes a very talented actor to hold up a movie all by himself, and few are more reliable than Hanks. I would not have been upset if the entire movie was about him on the island. The ending is a little shallow, not really explaining what happens to him once he gets back to civilization.

But I guess it would not have been as well received if the protagonist never made it off the island.

The film's main drawback is that it could just as easily pass for a Fed Ex commercial. Noland sports a Fex Ex hat, a Fed Ex jacket; Fed Ex trucks and signs are seen all over the place; even on the island, you're never allowed to forget that it was Fed Ex that was involved. Zemeckis keeps including shots of Fed Ex packages in the movie.

It makes one wonder as to whether the movie even needed a budget at all...or if they made the whole thing with the money they got from Fed Ex.

Other than that, however, the movie does not disappoint. It has a powerful message, like how the love of a woman can keep a man going. Noland has nothing but a watch with a picture of his girlfriend in it. And it manages to give him a reason to stay alive.

A talented actor like Hanks and a talented director like Zemeckis can make a simple story and mediocre screenplay a very entertaining watch.

It's also interesting to watch knowing that they went on a year-long hiatus in order for Hanks to lose a lot of weight and grow his hair to Neanderthal style.

Worth the watch just to see Hanks work his magic.

The special edition DVD is a two disc set with enough extras to choke a horse. The movie itself is presented in THX-approved anamorphic widescreen video and the quality is excellent, expecially in the scenes not on the island. That doesn't mean it's a slouch on the island - just that it's better in the other scenes. One ting that caught us by surprise was the aspect ratio. Zemeckis films are traditionally 2.35:1, and the box for Cast Away proclaims that aspect ratio. Yet when we slipped the disc into the player it came up 1.85:1. Not a big deal; we like films either way. It's just unusual - especially when the distributor itself doesn't appear to know which aspect ratio it's using.

Audio is Dolby Digital EX, DTS ES (both of which are 5.1 channel surround) and Dolby Pro Logic. Audio quality, not surprising, is also excellent.

As for extras, well, there are plenty. Besides a commentary track by director Zemeckis and crew, there's a "Charlie Rose Show" interview with Hanks, a featurette on the volleyball that plays a central part in Hanks' character keeping his sanity, and another featurette on the island chosen for the shoot. YOu also get a series of special effects vignettes, a survivalists' documentary, an HBO "First Look" documentary, storyboard-to-film comparisons, concept art gallery, trailers, etc.

Cast Away, from 20th Century Fox Home Video
143 min. widescreen (1.85:1) 16x9 compatible, Dolby Digital 5.1
Starring Tom Hanks, Helen Hunt
Produced by Steve Starkey, Tom Hanks, Robert Zemeckis, Jack Rapke
Written by William Broyles, Jr. Directed by Robert Zemeckis.


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Updated May 13, 2006