Tuesday, June 13, 2006


RATING: ***1/2
RUNTIME: 143 min.

What happens when you leave the best actor in the world to act out three quarters of a movie all by himself? The answer: CAST AWAY. Chuck Noland will never be the toughest character that Tom Hanks has played but it sure is another gem in his illustrious career. There are only a handful of actors in Hollywood who not only get into the depth of their characters but also know how to play it according to the needs of the film, none more so than Hanks. I have watched his each and every movie and I have never seen him in a single bad performance. He knows when to overplay or underplay a character.
CAST AWAY rides high purely because of one powerhouse from Tom Hanks. Hanks plays Chuck Noland, a Fed Ex systems engineer who values time like nothing else. He shares a beautiful married life with Kelly Frears (Helen Hunt, AS GOOD AS IT GETS, TWISTER). Noland leaves on a job assignment on Christmas Eve but enroute his plane crashes somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. Noland somehow survives and manages to float ashore to safety, thanks to a boat. The island he comes is absolutely marooned. And like Robinson Crusoe he is stuck in the middle of nowhere with a few Fed Ex packages. He starts his struggle to survive in a place where there is no civilization whatsoever. He also manages to find his Man Friday, a volleyball which he names Wilson.
There is nothing wrong with CAST AWAY per se. The direction is fine and the performances are just plain fantastic. It is just that there is nothing great about it. I always judge a movie by the potential the plot has. CAST AWAY had just a fantastic premise to elevate itself from an entertainer to one that is deeply rooted in psychology and spirituality. The best part of the movie is when Noland is marooned on the island. It is an absolute delight to watch Noland to go back in time to the start of civilization. He practically invents his basic needs with the resources he has. This is the part of the movie that is most innovative and thoroughly enjoyable. But the movie gets absolutely inert once he returns from the island. Whatever you feel is due to Hanks’ incredible performance. He just has this uncanny ability to lift seemingly average stuff and elevate it to something much deeper. He is the classic everyman with whom we all can identify with. But for its part, the movie doesn’t aim high enough. It goes for the easy and commercial way of entertaining audiences with the incredible survival story of Chuck Noland. All its attempts to give psychological or spiritual depths to the character seem so labored. Four years of living alone on a marooned island is sure to do something to a person. But whatever is there related to this is because of Hanks’ understanding of the character rather than the movie showing it. In the end CAST AWAY tries to throw in some tired message of hope through a Hanks monologue but it all seems so clich├ęd and plastic. Whatever weight that can be attributed to the end is solely because of Hanks. As I said, CAST AWAY is a perfect example of what a great actor can do to an inert movie. CAST AWAY even tries its hand at being romantic but fails miserably. The scene involving Noland and Kelly at the end just seems so uninspired. Even actors of the caliber of Tom Hanks and Helen Hunt cannot save the scene.
CAST AWAY is not a bad movie by any stretch of the imagination. It is very entertaining. The movie does a fantastic job of going into great detail about the initial period of Noland’s stay at the island. The direction in the second act is brilliant enough to make us feel the passage of time when you are marooned on an island. Time doesn’t fly by buy drags. And watching that pieces of material come ashore and Noland making a sail out of it justifies the age-old saying-“God helps those who help themselves.”
But it is the third act that fails the movie and Tom Hanks. This has got to be one of the least inspired endings of a good movie in a long time. There is a serious lack of imagination here. The third act, I guess, is hardly of 20 minutes but it feels like ages. While watching Hanks on the island, I so wanted the movie to be something of a spiritual journey something like 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. The movie failed in doing that and it is really disappointing for this movie could have been so good. It would have been a memorable one that people 20 years down the line would still be amazed at. What they will only be amazed at is Hanks’ performance. I feel very sorry that this movie 10 years down the line will be cast away from people’s memory.

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