Fox // 2000 // 143 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Ryan Keefer (Retired) // December 22nd, 2007
At the edge of the world, his journey begins.
Tom Hanks really doesn't have much to be worried about now. Hell, he didn't really have much to be worried about in 2000 when Cast Away came out, though the concept of the film certainly was intriguing when first released; a man, stranded on a desert island for four years with no one to talk to except a volleyball. But the film made a large chunk of cash and seemed to convince everyone that Hanks could do just about anything and we'd watch it. So now that it's on Blu-ray, is Cast Away a desert island disc?
In Cast Away, written by William Broyles Jr. (Flags of our Fathers) and directed by Robert Zemeckis (The Polar Express), Hanks plays Chuck Noland, an efficiency expert who works for Federal Express. He visits distribution and shipping centers worldwide, telling them about the importance of doing things on time. His life is dictated by the clock, watch or pager. When he returns home for Christmas to his girlfriend Kelly (Helen Hunt, As Good As It Gets), he receives a page which forces him to shorten his holiday plans with Kelly, the reaction isn't an emotional one, it's one where Chuck and Kelly pull out their day planners, discussing contingencies in the interim. Being emotional to Chuck would probably seem to be a waste of time.
While in his travels on one of the many Federal Express planes, the plane experiences an accident in rough weather and crashes into the Pacific. Chuck is stranded without communication, and when the rescue effort is abandoned, Chuck's fate on the island becomes certain, so the next four years focus on his life on the island and his attempts to return to civilization.
One of the things that I remember dampened my enjoyment of the film initially was the way that the "gimmick" of Hanks' transformation got so much attention. There are long shots of him, not really doing much in the way of activity. Now don't get me wrong, I understand that this is supposed to be a beaten man and there's going to be the natural urge to look at him, even if he's not doing anything. And he doesn't say all that much when he returns from the island either. When you watch Cast Away now, or if you've seen it recently now that Tom's dietary skills have paid off, you realize that he's still broken and trying to figure out his way in the world. He wasn't entirely sure how to act when he was first stranded on the island, and in a poignant scene near the end of the film when he discusses his time on the island, you can see that he's stranded all over again, and he doesn't even know how to act or what to say. The quieter things that Hanks does in the film really make it worth watching.
It goes without saying that the more obvious stuff he does is great also, but let me kick it for a second in this area. We see him eat, drink, go to the bathroom. We see the menial and we occasionally see something that's out of the ordinary for your run of the mill cast away. While it serves as a plot device and a way for him to speak, the way we see him talk to Wilson, the inanimate object that arose from a FedEx package that washed on shore, is one where a man talks to his best friend. Hanks makes you buy into it and believe it completely. During a scene late in the film, when the "friendship" seems to stray, you find yourself dabbing at moist eyes. Over a volleyball. But that's the magic of how Tom Hanks works. He could be working the late shift at a gas and go just off the interstate and, assuming there was a surveillance camera there, I'd want to see it. And so would you.
Fox has always paid good technical attention to Cast Away in whatever incarnation, and this Blu-ray version is no exception. The AVC MPEG-4 encoded 1.85:1 widescreen presentation looks great, film grain is present throughout and the depth and detail is adequate. It's one of those films that maintains a quality image for all of its 143 minutes. The PCM soundtrack is another top notch effort, with the sound effects making for an immersive environment. The crash sequence brings out added effects that I hadn't noticed before, and brought me back into the theater watching it again. The initial beach scenes has waves sounding clear and balanced, and made me feel like I was in Hawaii all over again. Coconut thuds into the sand at night were all around as well, making this audio track well worth it.
Fox zigged on this Blu-ray disc when it should have zagged. While the commentary is very good, knowing that somewhere, there was at least a second disc full of bonus material that didn't make it here is a bit of a shame. So if you really liked the film, consider holding onto the copy you have. Or read Judge Nicholas Sylvain's review and make your own decision. Or better yet, chastise Fox for not doing the right thing here.
I'm still a little bit upset at Fox for slicing a decent first run DVD in half by not including those materials, but if you've seen and loved Cast Away in the past, it's safe to say that you're going to enjoy it all over again. Fox has decided to make this Blu-ray disc more about the technical qualities than a completely holistic and enjoyable experience, but the audio and video are excellent and worth of an upgrade if you already have the one disc version.
Chuck and Wilson are acquitted of the charges and hopefully they can find a happy reunion at some point down the road.
Review content copyright © 2007 Ryan Keefer; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (Widescreen)
* DTS HD 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 143 Minutes
Release Year: 2000
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Director/Crew Commentary
* Review - Cast Away