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Metronome Sessions

25 Years Later: Cast Away

12 January 21 words: George White

Cast Away helped Tom Hanks to his fifth Oscar nomination back in 2021, and our Screen Co-Editor can definitely see why...

Director: Robert Zemeckis
Starring: Tom Hanks, Helen Hunt, Paul Sanchez 
Running time: 143 minutes

Now, this might sound a little controversial, but Tom Hanks is a pretty good actor. There, it’s been said. And at no point is this better proven than in 2001’s Cast Away. Managing to front near enough an entire movie on your own shows the work of a true genius, and Hanks is certainly that. Through his layered, complex and utterly intoxicating performance, Hollywood’s sweetheart plays a vital role in making this film what it is - a timeless classic. 

Cast Away follows Chuck Noland (Hanks), a time-obsessed FedEx driver, as his cargo plane plunges into the Pacific Ocean and he is left stranded on a desert island, left to fend for himself. As the film progresses, the audience gets to see Noland’s struggle to survive, and to stay sane, as years pass without his rescue. 

It’s safe to say this film has massively influenced popular culture over the past two decades. From sparking casual references in TV shows like Cougar Town to inspiring entire series like The Last Man on Earth, Cast Away has taken up position as one of the most iconic films of the 21st century, and it is clear to see why. 

Never before had a film approached the exploration of loneliness and isolation so viscerally, nor had any thrown up so many utterly delightful subplots as Noland’s relationship with Wilson - the emblematic volleyball-turned-imaginary-friend. 

Cast Away’s effectiveness is largely due to the fascinating work of Hanks. Managing to entertain while having very little in the way of actual lines, including zero dialogue with other characters, for the best part of a couple hours is ridiculously impressive. 

Using only his striking facial expressions and vivid physical performance, Hanks subtly demonstrates the impact that being all alone, in the middle of nowhere and with no one in sight, can have on the human mind. It’s utterly fascinating, and the Californian was well-deserving of his Oscar nomination.

Simply put, this is FedExcellent

Director Robert Zemeckis also deserves great credit for the film’s incredible success. With classics like Back to the Future and Forrest Gump also in his filmography, it is obvious that Zemeckis knows how to make a movie. And his dynamic, energetic camerawork is evident from the very first moments. As the audience follows a restless Noland as he organises his legion of delivery drivers, it is clear that Zemeckis is going to chuck the viewer head-first into this wild ride. 

On the island, Zemeckis and writer William Broyles Jr throw up enough exciting, brutal scenarios to keep things interesting. From Noland’s first few days of struggle to his cunning escape plan four years later, from gashing his leg on a coral reef to creating a working raft from logs and the remnants of a portaloo, the pair consistently provide our protagonist with plenty to deal with - without ever feeling over-the-top.

However, where this film slightly falters is in the jump from days to years. After spending around an hour examining Noland’s initial quest to survive, the film skips forward a considerable amount of time. This is undoubtedly disappointing, as it feels like a missed opportunity to show our hero coming up against a greater array of challenges. 

That said, there is still plenty to keep the audience engaged from near-enough start to finish. While attempts to hook the viewer into Noland’s personal life feel slightly drawn out, the bulk of the movie - spent with the delivery driver on a secluded island in the middle of nowhere - is near perfection. Hanks puts in yet another remarkable display, teaming up with a heavyweight behind the camera to create a near-perfect masterpiece. Simply put, this is FedExcellent. (Sorry). 

Did you know? Job applications for FedEx went up by 30% after the release of this film. 

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