Cast Away

By Mark Ramsey | 2000/12/27

“Time rules over us without mercy,” says Tom Hanks – but the truth is that TOM rules over us without mercy here in audience-land. I mean, picture any other actor in this virtually one-man show and ask yourself if you’d be interested in spending two hours alone with him on an island. That’s why Tom is the Big Star and guys like William Hurt couldn’t ignite buzz even if buzz poured kerosene all over itself and handed Bill a match.

castaway_gilligan.jpgCast Away is not without technical innovations thanks to the immensely distracting, all-new Fed Ex package-cam. Just what I need, Parcel P.O.V. See the package see itself picked up in Texas and delivered in Moscow. Gee, if the folks at the postal service had this we’d be able to see how it looks when snails carry mail.

Tom’s a time-obsessed, Type A, Fed Ex manager who’s in charge of the greatest corporate product placement promotion since You’ve Got Mail. There’s Tom, sorting packages in front of Lenin’s tomb where we learn, to my surprise, that Lenin is sheathed in a Fed Ex vacuum-pak mailer, thus explaining why he looks younger than James Brolin.

So Tom’s Fed Ex plane goes down in the South Pacific in one of the most chillingly effective plane crash scenes you’re likely to see (so much for “water landing”). Luckily, Tom had dispensed with the usual Fed Ex envelope, box, and tube and instead encased himself in a Fed Ex inflata-pak no-drown mailer.

Tom washes up on a remote island in the South Pacific along with a variety of packages enclosed in specialized Fed Ex jet crash-proof dura-float mailers. Before you can say “Oscar nod,” Tom has swapped scanning airbills for scanning the empty horizon. Soon after, Tom discovers a dead pilot floating nearby. See what happens when you use your own packaging?

Tom stays on the island lost with his washed up packages for four years! They can’t find this guy! Hasn’t anyone ever heard the phrase “package tracking”? Tom, didn’t you schedule a pickup?

Tom quickly uses some fancy math to calculate that he’s lost in a search area twice the size of Texas. I’ve been wondering for years about why I needed to learn about Pi and now I know: I, too, might become a castaway!


As the years pass, and after several trips to the gym, a Pringle-free diet, and intensive cramming with the Animal Planet channel, Tom transforms from “gluttonous American Capitalist speed-obsessed workaholic pot-bellied man” into “survivalist man” – from the neck down, anyway. He’s Bette Midler from the neck up.

Tom befriends a volleyball named “Wilson” which resembles the league-sanctioned head of Marlon Wayans. If Marlon’s head could be served, set, and spiked, it would look like this. And Tom LOVES this ball! Not since the private moments between Drew Barrymore and Tom Green has anyone been so obsessed with one ball. “Wilson” is the best inanimate object in movies this year, if we don’t count Jack Lemmon in Bagger Vance and Michael Douglas in just about anything.

Together, Bette and Marlon set out to escape their island habitat and come back to the time-obsessed real world. There, Tom can return to his mainland honey, the one and only Helen Hunt. I say “one and only” because evidently she’s the one and only female member of the Screen Actors Guild. Does this woman ever sleep? Here’s a new word, Helen, try it out: “No.”

Tom turns in another bravura performance in this movie, even if his role for the most part calls for more endurance than acting. Mostly it’s screaming, yelling, groping, and gawking. But he screams, yells, gropes, and gawks in close-up, damn it, because he’s a STAR and he can do whatever he wants. Hey I see the movie star, but where’s the Professor and MaryAnn?

The published script for this movie is unlikely to sell like hotcakes any time soon, since it’s about twenty pages of dialogue and one-hundred pages of Tom yelling “Wilson! Wilson!”

Good news: The FX in Cast Away are only about a thousand times better than the pathetic phony-baloney in a showcase like A Perfectly Fake Storm

. Thank you, director Robert Zemeckis, for showing them how it’s done.

All in all, I liked this movie. Not great, but – as “Wilson” would say, “sporting good.”

Photos Copyright ©2000 Twentieth Century Fox


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