Neil Young’s Film Lounge – Cast Away



US 2000
dir Robert Zemeckis
scr William Broyles, Jr
cin Don Burgess
stars Tom Hanks, Helen Hunt
143 minutes

Cast Away starts and ends like a complete clunker, but in between serves up a middle section that’s borderline miraculous for mainstream Hollywood. So don’t be put-off by the dull bustle of the opening exposition that introduces Chuck Noland (Hanks), a clock-obsessed Federal Express manager who somehow finds time at Christmas to pop the question to longtime girlfriend Kelly (Hunt).

Half an hour in, Cast Away takes off, so to speak. After what must be the most terrifyingly realistic plane crash ever filmed (or, rather, digitised), Chuck is stranded on a desert island somewhere in the south Pacific. Totally alone. For years. Most of the film passes with hardly any dialogue, none of the usual music designed to tell you how to feel or hint whats going to happen; none of the usual melodrama: no savage animals, no natives, no fevered craziness – this isn’t The Beach, in other words. Chuck reveals himself to be almost unbelievably adaptable and resourceful, but there’s no mistaking the hardship of his struggles to feed, clothe and shelter himself, with only a battered volleyball (christened Wilson) for company.

The premise is intriguingly What if?, and its executed totally, refreshingly straight, with heart-stopping set-pieces as the resourceful Chuck twice tries his luck on the treacherous computer-generated waves. Zemeckis even manages to craft a visually stunning, nicely ambiguous closing shot as a desperate, raft-bound Chuck slowly raises his hand to a passing tanker – but then he clags on a further 20 minutes that are as redundant (we never really know how Chucks been changed by his ordeal) as they are insultingly, predictably sentimental.

16th January 2001

by Neil Young