Plot: What’s it about?
Chuck Noland (Tom Hanks) lives his life by the clock, as he works all the time and has precious little time left over. Noland is a FedEx manager with a strict system, the work has to be done on time or else head rolls and people are fired. He has a loving girlfriend Kelly (Helen Hunt), but because his work takes him all over the world, he is unable to spend much time with her. He does love her and want to be with her, but his work is demanding and he doesn’t want to let down his customers. As he prepares to leave for his next assignment, she gives him a special gift in the form of a pocketwatch, with a small photo of her inside. As he flies toward that assignment however, his plane crashes into the ocean and Chuck’s life is forever changed in the process. He washes onto an island and begins to prepare a rescue sign, but quickly realizes how slim his chances for survival are. So he does what he can to remain alive and in decent spirits, which includes using some FedEx boxes that washed ashore. As time passes, he must become more and more reliant on himself and the island, but can he ever return home and resume his relationship with Kelly, his true love?
I saw Cast Away in theaters and liked the film, but I have to say, I wasn’t as blown away as I expected. I wasn’t too impressed by the start or finish of Cast Away, but the middle was magical and was enough to make this a must own release. The film as a whole is a very good, but it is the time on the island that makes it shine, especially Tom Hanks stellar performance. I am not surprised he took home a Golden Globe for his efforts and while Ed Harris should have won the Oscar for Pollock, Hanks gave the second finest male performance of 2000. Whether celebrating over his fire starting skills or just chatting with Wilson, Hanks is excellent in Cast Away and deserves much praise. As I mentioned, the island sequences are the film’s best moments and while the other elements were needed, they were a let down to me. I felt like the end was stretched out too much and while not as predictable as expected, I still longed to be taken back to the middle of the picture. But in any case, this film is highly recommended and of course, Fox has delivered a terrific two disc presentation. In other words, if you’re at all interesting in this movie, go ahead and pick up this release, as it is more than worth the cash.
This film is reliant upon one man, Tom Hanks and since he is alone for most of the film, I think his performance deserves a special mention. I’ve always liked the work of Hanks and as he has advanced through his career, he seems to only improve and turn in even more memorable performances. He seems so natural within his roles and here is no exception, his character is enacted to perfection, which is an amazing feat to behold. It is a rare cinematic treat to see such depth in a performance, as Hanks evolves his character and seems to uncover unknown traits, as he gets to know himself on the island. This is one of the most powerful turns of 2000 and perhaps Hanks finest effort, although he has so many, it would hard to choose. You can also see Hanks in such films as Saving Private Ryan, Bachelor Party, Forrest Gump, Philadelphia, Sleepless In Seattle, Apollo 13, The ‘burbs, and Joe Versus the Volcano. The cast here also includes Helen Hunt (What Women Want, Twister), Christopher Noth (The Confession, A Texas Funeral), Nick Searcy (Tigerland, The Fugitive), and of course, the immortal Wilson.
Video: How does it look?
Cast Away is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. As usual, Fox takes a lot of care here and comes through with an incredible visual presentation. I did see some very small flaws, but not enough to lower the score and in truth, I think this one deserves the highest score, as I was really looking close to see those errors. This is a clean and crystal clear treatment, you can see such depth here, the image is almost 3-D at times. The lush island colors are well presented, while the more natural scope of the normal world is also as intended, while flesh tones look warm and normal in both cases. The contrast is dead on also, with razor sharp black levels and strong detail, very strong detail indeed. As I mentioned, I saw a couple small flaws, but they were not serious and since the rest of the transfer is so awesome, I am giving this the highest score possible.
Audio: How does it sound?
This release houses a Dolby Digital 5.1 EX track, as well as a DTS ES option and of course, this means excellent audio in either case. This film has some high impact sequences and those do rock, but these mixes excel when it comes to atmosphere, especially once we’re on the island. I was very pleased with how immersive the experience was, as sounds were coming from all directions, but never seemed artificial. In other words, you’ll feel like you’ve been stranded right there with Hanks and Wilson, very cool indeed. The plane crash is nothing short of reference and soon, I am sure it will become a showcase sequence for home theater buffs, it is that effective and impressive. The score sounds good when it appears, although it is not as much as traditional scores, which is to help maintain a certain environmental texture. No problems with dialogue either, as vocals are sharp and on the mark, very good work. This release also includes 2.0 surround tracks in English and French, as well as subtitles in Spanish and English.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This is a two disc release that’s loaded with extras, starting off on the first disc with an audio commentary session. This track consists of various interviews edited together, but the comments do remain pertinent to what’s on the screen. I always prefer screen specific tracks, but I’d much rather have this kind of session than none at all. The track features director Robert Zemeckis, visual effects team members Ken Ralston and Carey Villegas, sound designer Randy Thom, and director of photography Don Burgess, all of whom have some interesting comments. I was most taken with Zemeckis and his segments, but all offered some nice information and in the end, this track is well worth a spin indeed. This is the sole extra on disc one, so let’s move to disc two, where the bulk of the supplements can be found.
If you like featurettes then you’re in luck here, as this release contains a number of them. An HBO First Look special is included and runs about twenty-five minutes, filled with interviews, behind the scenes clips, and shots from the finished film. This is better than most HBO behind the scenes pieces, but don’t expect an in depth treatment by any means. Next up are three more featurettes, S.T.O.P.: Surviving as a Castaway, The Island, and Wilson: The Life and Death of a Hollywood Extra. These add up to around forty more minutes of behind the scenes stuff and while brief, they combine with the HBO special to offer a more expansive look into how Cast Away was created. I loved the Wilson based featurette and mark it as the highlight, but it is worthwhile to view all the included materials, for a deeper look. Even more featurettes follow however, in the form of six special effects vignettes, each of which focuses on a different sequence in the film. I liked these brief pieces also, as it was cool to see how these awesome special effects were created. This second disc also includes an extensive selection of still photos, storyboard presentations for three sequences, an automated gallery of behind the scenes stills, conceptual artwork and illustrations, a lot of television spots, and two theatrical trailers.