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Cast Away

Warning - this review contains spoilers.

Cast Away strikes me as a movie that Hollywood decided predominantly to make to cash in on the huge success of the "Survivor" type TV programs of last year which, to me, seems a fairly lame and mercenary reason to make a movie. Of course it also gives rise to the natural survival instinct question "what would I do if I was in his shoes?" and this however was a reason to approach this movie with anticipation.

Much has been made of Tom Hanks preparation for his role in this movie and how it puts him in definite contention for yet another Oscar - If this is the case then I hope his main co star for much of the movie - a character called Wilson is also nominated for best supporting actor.

The basic premise of Cast Away introduces us to FedEx Problem Solver and Logistics Man, Hanks who at the beginning of the film in a typically condescending American way, enlightens both us and a pitiful crowd of Russian Fed Ex employees of how important time is and how "we live and die by the clock"

Meanwhile, while our hero Hanks is shooting round the world in air freight jets, his patient, and it seems long suffering fiancée Helen Hunt waits uncomplainingly back in Memphis, USA. Of course he jets home in time for Christmas only to be beeped off again on Christmas night leaving only the shortest time for exchange of presents before he flies off again promising faithfully to be back for New Year.

Of course we all know, if we've seen the trailers, that he won't be.

The re -enactment of the plane crash is a very impressive and most terrifying piece of movie making which, if nothing else will ensure that this movie is never shown as in-flight entertainment.

Naturally our hero Hanks emerges relatively unscathed as the only survivor from the plane wreck onto a tiny volcanic island jutting out of an expansive Pacific with no population save for a few coconut and palm trees and the few Fed ex boxes that wash up on his private beach.

Being a man of the modern world to whom time is of the essence, the survival instinct in our hero takes quite a bit of time to click in and even when it does it tends to manifest or reveal itself in the most basic, juvenile and pathetic of ways.

Eventually Hanks begins to show a bit of initiative by utilising what he can from the salvaged Fed Ex boxes, but even here on this futile desert Island, his illogical enslavement to corporate America and time remains when he retains one of the parcels un-opened so that he can deliver it "some time in the future".

In at least something of a nod to other much better thought out "survival type" pieces of literature and movies, Hanks sets out in a quest for fire and companionship.

The companionship comes relatively easily in the guise of the aforementioned Wilson which manifests itself in the shape of a volleyball which bears a crude face when he accidentally smears it with his blood. His quest for fire of course is a considerably more involved procedure and he obviously never had enough time out from the corporate rat race from the day of his birth to for example know it's a lot easier to create friction between two pieces of timber using a strung bow as a rotation device rather than merely rubbing the pieces together.

Of course in that context, whilst it is very irritating, it's not altogether surprising to have the movie very suddenly jump on a whole four years, and to discover that, save for losing a lot of weight and growing a lot of very shaggy hair, our "hero" Hanks has in fact moved on very little from his first few days. Indeed the growing incredulity of the film at this stage is further established when then, after four years, a piece of a Portaloo washed up on his island suddenly seemingly overnight finally inspires Hanks to try and get off the island.

His survival instinct and initiative which seems to have little progressed or developed in the intervening four years then suddenly kicks into gear again and he does display some encouraging enterprise in building a raft from logs and video tape and a rope which we learn he'd contemplated to use in his suicide sometime in the four years (It could have been a much better movie if we'd had more time to find out the specifics of why he didn't).

Of course it's no real surprise to reveal that he does succeed in his escape and is delivered into his rightful place back in the civilized world again, though in another bit of appalling continuity his undoubtedly required psychological and physical rehabilitation is compressed into a simple and casual but very irritating "Four weeks later" flashed across the screen.

Back in the real world however, life and also unfortunately, his fiancée, has moved on, so Hanks is confronted with a new set of realities, in addition to the added trauma of merely trying to readjust to normal life. Of course, out of its more comfortable and familiar setting on the island, the movie again begins to lose its way and even threatens a sickly sweet Hollywood ending but even fumbles that ball and ends up pretty inconclusively really which the malicious or cynical part of me might speculate could have "Sequel" or "Prequel" or even "Interval - The intervening four years" written on it.

This was one of those movies that had its wonderful potential most irritatingly buried by getting such things as too many story lines and a striving towards "Oscar status" again for Tom Hanks get in the way of writing a concise and tightly knit story of survival in the face of awful odds and more especially the psychological effects of loneliness and isolation and a study of the primeval instincts of survival in man. This movie only briefly flirted with any of these subjects and if it had even chose to concentrate on one of them it could have been great.

2 stars out of 5

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