Cast Away

Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 2 Hours and 23 Minutes

Reviewer: Dale
Grade: A+

Tom Hanks stands alone at the summit of a small mountain on an island. He looks around and sees nothing but ocean in every direction. He sees the tides as they make their way toward the island. He sees groves of palm trees. But, to his dismay, he sees no boats. No land nearby.

And, worst of all, no people.

This moment contains more majesty, more of a profound statement, than any movie made this year. Even the best movies of the year aside from this one were oddly hollow. "Chicken Run" had more sense of purpose than most of them. "Almost Famous" had brilliant character development and some nice ideas and some neat insights, but nothing remarkable to say (it was great, though). "Nurse Betty" was surreal and beautiful. But "Cast Away" towers above them all as an immense achievement. It has lush photography, it is not afraid to take risks, and it wraps us thoroughly in its own spellbinding world. It takes us to a place we have never been before and shows us how one of our own might deal with it there.

There is an everyday guy quality to Tom Hanks that makes us willing to follow him anywhere. He has movie star charisma and seems like a genuinely likable guy. The fact that he is also one of the best actors that the cinema has ever seen only helps. He is an awesome actor, less an actor than the conscience and guide of our generation of moviegoers. He is the man we trust most of all the actors out there. We will follow him to Outer Space, through the Sixties, and to a little Louisiana prison in the Thirties, if these are the places that he chooses to take us. Here, he takes us to a whole new place, and he shows us a side of humanity. Layers of the world are slowly stripped away from him during the course of the movie and it is interesting to see how he makes do without them, and what he improvises to take their place. We marvel at some of his makeshift inventions, we cringe at some of the things he does, and we laugh with him. Tom Hanks is truly staggering here. With only a few FedEx packages, an island of trees, the sea and a volleyball to interact with, he is truly a one-man show in what is, for the most part, a silent movie. The waves are our orchestra. The ocean is a sort of villain, keeping the hero hostage. The supporting cast consists of some cocoanuts, a volleyball named Wilson, and the beach. Each of these items emerges as a strong supporting actor. And Tom emerges as one of the best actors ever, and easily the best of this year.

Thanks to Robert Zemeckis's expert touch, the movie more than lives up to his performance. The restraint of the film is masterful and a refreshing change of pace. It allows us to be swallowed up by this world and to contemplate the issues he would have us contemplate. This is his best movie since "Forrest Gump" and, in my eyes, may even be a better one.
Though, for all its flaws, "Forrest" did have the feel of an epic, and it was very powerful and giddily amazing. This movie is every bit as awesome. There is a scene involving the volleyball that made it more of an interesting character than ninety percent of most live actors, and the fact that I was nearly moved to tears over an inanimate object, well, that helped solidify my opinion of "Cast Away". Even if it only took place on the island, it would be the best film of the year, but when Tom goes home and must figure out how to fit in again, it takes us into 100 Best Films ever made territory.

In a year when even the best movies have a funny ring to them, "Cast Away" provides us with what we've been yearning for all year. Movies like this are the reason we go to movies in the first place.