Cast Away (2000) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Cast Away is a surprisingly structured five-act play, in the grand theatrical tradition.

Act 1: Tom Hanks in Russia and Memphis. We see his Type A personality. (When he was a FedEx driver, he once stole a kid's bike in order to deliver a package on time when his truck broke down. When his cronies repeat the story, it was a crippled kid. )

Act 2: The Plane Crash. Hanks' plane ends up in the Pacific.

Act 3: On the island. Learning to survive.

Act 4: At sea. Proactive attempt at rescue, rather than passively waiting on the island.

Act 5: Back in the modern world.

Some of these acts are magnificent. In fact, they are all pretty good in their way except the last one, and they are all very different. At the end of the 140 minutes, you will feel like you just watched several different movies.


  • The scene in Moscow is amusing, atmospheric, and hard-driving.
  • The plane crash is about ten minutes of the best damned big-budget filmmaking you'll ever see. It is as tense and exciting and terrifying and realistic as the opening of Saving Private Ryan. Completely kick-ass special effects which make The Perfect Storm look like a ripple in your Thanksgiving jello mold.
  • The time on the island is like a European art film, with no dialogue, and no background music, just the noises of nature.
  • The part at sea has two spectacular visuals: once when his raft encounters a gigantic whale, and once when his flimsy craft is dwarfed by the tanker that rescues him. His rescue is unusual in that there's no shouting or waving at a ship. In fact he doesn't really recognize that he's been rescued when he wakes up.
  • The last part was the only one that failed. There was so much they could have done, so much they could have said, but they basically narrowed it down to the whole girlfriend thing. That was necessary for the sake of sheer economy, but imagine the experiences they could have focused on with a man back in reality after four years. The Hanks character didn't know what to do with his life when he returned, and he still didn't know at the end of the movie. The time when he was "dead" changed his outlook on and appreciation for everything. This set up the conclusion well, but I was left waiting for some kind of catharsis or revelation. They didn't seem to know how to end it.

For me the unsatisfying return to the modern world kind of spoiled the overall impact of the movie, but I still think it's a helluva powerful movie.

FedEx must have gotten the greatest product placement in history. The first 15 minutes of the film are like a FedEx commercial with beloved icon Tom Hanks personally endorsing their product.

Hanks got his 11 millionth Oscar nomination for this film. Good thing he doesn't do five films a year, because if he did, the Academy would probably give him all five nominations. He's on screen constantly. He's the only character on screen for about 80 minutes in the middle of the film, and he lost 60 pounds to play the post-island scenes.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 1.85:1. 

  • full-length director's commentary

  • substantial features on one extra disk: ijnterview with Tom Hanks, featurette in Wilson, several other featurettes, storyboard-to-film comparison

The only other major character in the film is a volleyball with a human face painted on it, which Hanks finds among some packages which wash ashore, and names "Wilson" (more product placement, Tom?). Of course, the facial expression never changes on this, and it is incapable of reacting, but Tom keeps talking to it anyway, pretty much the same as he did in a similar situation with Dan Ackroyd in "Dragnet".

The ball could have won an Oscar for best inanimate object, I suppose, unless Christopher Lambert made a movie last year.

The film was directed by Robert Zemeckis and stars Tom Hanks. This is the same creative team that produced Forrest Gump, so the studio expected a winner, and placed 90 million behind it. I suppose most of that budget went into the first two acts, because the island scenes were just bare bones, as you'd expect on a deserted island. That investment yielded solid returns.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: three and a half stars. Ebert 3/4, Berardinelli 4/4, Apollo 85.

  • James Berardinelli loved the film, and picked it as his #2 film of 2000.

  • Rotten Tomatoes summary. 85% positive reviews overall, and 76% from the top critics.

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 7.5.
  • with their dollars ...this film was a monstrous hit, amassing a domestic gross of $233 million.
My guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a B, maybe a bit better.

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