Tom Hanks Project – “Cast Away” Review

18 Nov


“Cast Away” may very well be Hanks’ greatest acting challenge to date. To carry a film where you’re the only one on screen for hour-long stretches at a time is one thing. To somehow make a friendship with a volleyball pull at the heartstrings is a true accomplishment — to say nothing of the complete body transformation he went through for the role. Hanks pulls off the challenge well and starts the decade with an incredibly compelling movie that netted him his fifth best actor nomination and is one of our favorite roles of his. Even if it took weeks to get Caitlin in the mood to watch it.

We start with businessman Tom who’s all hustle and bustle, and lives and dies by the clock as a big wig at FedEx. He’s in Russia bringing their delivery center up to speed before jet-setting off to his next location. He makes a quick stop to his home in Memphis to meet up with his about-to-be-fiancé Helen Hunt for a holiday dinner. She drops him at his flight and he gives that foreboding, “I’ll be right back!” before getting on the plane*.

*And so begins a scene straight out of my nightmares. To Zack’s point about “waiting for Caitlin to get in the mood to watch this,” when are you ever in the mood to sit through witnessing what is probably your biggest fear, played out on screen? At the time, Zack rebutted, “But the point is about his survival! He’s strong enough to survive!” Yeah, well guess who ISN’T? This girl.

0086418_13753_MC_Tx304So obviously he wasn’t right back, as his plane crashed into the ocean and Hanks finds himself alone on an island. I’m shivering just reading that sentence.

castaway_still_4593He does some re-con, finds a bunch of packages he can make tools with and eats coconuts and buries a friend from the plane. Definitely what I like to see: bloated corpses of airplane crash victims (NOPE. NOPENOPENOPE.)

CastawayThen he makes fire and is super proud of himself.

beard skinny hanksIt’s insane how watchable Hanks is in this movie. It’s long. And has hours go by with no dialogue. And when there is dialogue, it’s Hanks talking to a volleyball he’s named “Wilson.” This could have been agonizingly boring and laughable in lesser hands, but it’s riveting to watch Hanks learn how to survive and flourish in the 1500 days he’s on the island. 

rafthanksAt some point Hanks decides, “I would rather take my chance out there on the ocean than to stay here and die on this shithole island.” So he builds a raft, ties Wilson up to a post and heads out. It’s an incredibly rough journey that sees him almost drowning, losing Wilson in devastating fashion and has him near death when a boat happens upon him. Seriously, I got sympathy scares as he was losing site of the island, his home for four years. Can you even imagine? I think Zack said it’s like a metaphor for graduating from college, except less bleak (ha, the economy and whatnot).kisstawayBack in civilization, Hanks is given a hero’s welcome. He’s trotted out as Fed-Ex’s long lost son, but all he cares about is getting back to Helen Hunt. She loved him deeply, but after a few years she had to let him go and is now married to Mr. Big with a kid*. She comes to the big welcome home party at the airport, but gets convinced not to see Hanks. So he drives to her place in the middle of the night and it’s just like old times and they kiss in the rain and … she can’t leave her husband for him**. So Hanks goes to deliver the package he’s been holding onto the whole time he’s been on the island, finds himself at a crossroads and is OK with it***.

*I have to shamefully admit, before re-watching this movie I had misremembered Hunt just not giving a damn when Hanks returned, and was angry at her for it since he cared SO MUCH for her. In the re-watch, though, I just feel deeply, deeply sad for her. What a fucked up thing to live through, for both of them!

**Hanks basically excuses her from running away with him, saying out loud what they both know is the reality they are in: “You have to go home.”

***The ending gets a lot of crap, but I kind of love it. It doesn’t tell us where he decides to go, just opens us all up to possibility. Way better than the puke-in-my-mouth 500 Days of Summer ending that ruined an otherwise perfectly good movie. I digress.

9419eb6f6f0aeebad4baa7438bdf5886Laugh Out Loud: Zack: 16 Caitlin: 26 Not a comedy or anything, but definitely some humorous parts. Hanks is quick witted and clever in his life pre-crash and his talking to Wilson is funny from time to time. And they play up his frustrations with learning survival skills to comedic effect. Definitely some dark humor, and just life humor, in this film. Subtle but very much needed in such an epic, hard-to-watch flick.

Comedy: N/A

Me, just now: “Should we give “Cast Away” a comedic score?” Caitlin: “Nooooo! Is it a comedy?”

Ok, then.


Eye Cover: Zack: 0 Caitlin: 20

Record broken again! I can’t believe Caitlin covered her eyes more at Hanks’ mild injuries on the island and his self-dentistry than she did at all the executions in “The Green Mile,” but that’s what happened. MILD INJURIES?!? DO YOU SEE THE PICTURE UP THERE. DO YOU SEE THAT SHIT. GOOD GOD IN HEAVEN.

Cry: Zack: 0.5 Caitlin: 0.5

We were both close twice. Me when Hanks and Helen Hunt can’t be together and Caitlin when Wilson floats away. We’ve both cried at this movie in the past, but not this time. It didn’t help that we split up our viewing over multiple nights, so the fact that we even felt close was solid.


Romantic Interest: Zack: 9.5 Caitlin: 9.4 It’s a one-sided romance through much of the movie, but dash it all, you can really feel how much Hanks loves Wilson. JK y’all, I’m talking about Helen Hunt. Seriously, even though you know it will be impossible, you root for Hanks and Helen to be together again. And honestly — I was joking about Wilson, but there are so many important relationships in this movie! Even though they barely interact, you even are feeling Hanks and the woman with the dog and the truck and the weird angel wings sculptures at the end. I think it’s really a love story between Hanks’ character and life, and they do it really, really well. It’s definitely a pining love, like Forrest for Jenny, but it’s his driving force. He has to get home to Kelly. Without her and the package, he probably would have hung himself. And we only get a couple quick scenes before and after the island stay, but they have awesome chemistry and you can easily see a world where they’d be happily ever after together, but it didn’t work out that way.

Hanks: Zack: 9.8 Caitlin: 9.8 Hanks carries the movie, obviously. For this one dude to keep you so invested in the story and his survival and an inanimate object — it’s intense! Not to mention how his character must change so much over what they pitch to us as four years passing. It’s a stellar performance, captivating and nuanced and really strong. I can’t think of any other actor who could do this performance so convincingly. I mean, sure, someone like Daniel Day Lewis could do the island survival part, but the Wilson friendship? It’s insanely hard to do that without making it laughable. 

Movie: Zack: 9.5 Caitlin: 9.3 I feel like, given what I’ve just written above, I should rate this movie higher. However, as we mentioned up top, this is a really tough movie for me to be in the mood to watch. It’s like some really long book you decide you’re going to read:  by the end of it, it’s worth it and you feel like you’ve accomplished something and believe in life again. But getting into it is a bit of a grind, and there are bumps along the way. It is certainly one of Hanks’ most iconic films, and will forever get people yelling, “Wilsonnnnnn!” I actually love watching this anytime. Bill Simmons has it as one of those movies you’ll always get sucked into when it’s on cable and I’m sure I’ll watch this a few times without Caitlin now that we have the Blu-Ray. I’m on the fence about the way the movie bookends, but I’ve come to accept it. It’s not a traditional happy ending, but it’s a hopeful one. 


5 Responses to “Tom Hanks Project – “Cast Away” Review”

  1. tapeparade December 11, 2014 at 7:16 am #

    I’m with Zack, I could watch this film anytime. Wilson is like a masterclass for any actor in creating sympathy via prop. So incredible. I don’t think I’ve once watched this and thought “shit, this could happen to me or somebody I love!” although obviously it could. Also made me laugh at the reference to Mr Big because everytime I see this film I’m like “Oh, Mr Big” at that point and totally forget to be outraged on the part of Hanks/Hunts characters. xxx

  2. tapeparade December 11, 2014 at 7:17 am #

    Also I don’t know if you guys have heard much of my music but I actually have a song I wote about this film. (The bit where he loses Wilson) xx

    • Zack December 11, 2014 at 7:22 am #

      Hehe love the comments, thank you! I need to hear this Wilson song. Is it on your Soundcloud page or anywhere you can link us? Thanks again!

      • tapeparade February 6, 2015 at 5:31 pm #

        I totally forgot I commented on this post ages ago. There’s no soundcloud but I think there might be a live version recorded.. I’ll dig it out and let you know 🙂


  1. Introduction to The Tom Hanks Project | rockloveaustin - December 15, 2014

    […] Cast Away – 2000 Review […]

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