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
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
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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