Movie Review: Castaway

SimeyC By SimeyC, 7th Jan 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Reviews>Film & TV>Family

After watching Will Smith’s lonely portrayal of the ‘last man on earth’ in I am Legend, I decided to dig through my small collection of DVDs and find Castaway. The similarities between the two enticed me to watch Castaway again, perhaps with a slightly different view.

And it begins....

Tom Hanks is a Fed-ex inspector who’s goal is to improve the efficiency of deliveries; this goal is an achievable goal, but is one that has him flying all around the world; this lifestyle puts strains on his relationship with his girlfriend Kelly – who’s love is obvious and yet you can almost feel her sadness that he is constantly away.

We see him struggle with his feelings as he tells Kelly how much he loves her. As he flies on one more trip, holding her watch in his hands, this seems to represent everything he feels about her; he is almost seems nostalgic, and it seems to be a harbinger of doom he settles down for his next ‘adventure’ in the land of efficiency.

Into the storm...

Flying through a storm, we see the fringes of fear appear as the bumpy ride begins to throw the crew and cargo around – the tentative hold on safety seemingly totally reliant on the powerful engines to get them through the storm generally unharmed.

Unfortunately for him, the engines are not up to the task and we suddenly see the plane plunging towards the ocean, all hope seemingly dashed for the crew.

Somehow, perhaps through a divine miracle or by pure chance he survives and finds himself swept onto an island. The island is a beautiful sanctuary in the middle of the ocean – it has a small mountain and typical tropical trees. As Tom Hanks climbs to the top of the mountain we are suddenly thrust into his desperate situation as we realize how isolated the island is.

An island...

He tries shouting for help. What would I do in this forlorn situation I wonder? Would I shout even though I knew there was no chance of being heard?. He also tries building a sign in the sand hoping for a plane to flyover; obviously no rescue plane comes otherwise this would be a very short and boring movie.

We then begin to see him start to ‘survive’ – this isn’t your ‘Survivor’ competition though, and is far more bleak and harsh. Initially he survives eating (and drinking) only coconuts, but the compelling action begins as he starts to fish, and to try and catch crabs. We also see a very interesting almost comedic part where he attempts to light a fire - Forest Gump would be so proud.

It is this struggle to survive, to apply many things he was aware of to a real situation that is so compelling. The comment is basically that survival isn’t quite as simple as we think – just the anger and frustration shown while he attempts to light a fire is testament to this. It’s interesting when he begins to use every day items to help him survive. One wonders whether you would really have the presence of mind to do this in reality.

As he searches for mundane items to use in his bid to survive, he comes across a basket ball – with the help of an imprint of blood, we suddenly have a companion for him…Wilson. This seems to be where the mind becomes unhinged by the loneliness of the situation, and the need for a companion is seemingly important.

State of mind...

Wilson really epitomizes his state of mind. As the realization that he is alone on a desert island, with probably little chance of rescue seeps into his mind, we feel his devastation and we almost can feel his mind unhinging.

As we move through the movie and he becomes very good at survival he finally contemplates escape using a raft…Personally that is the first thing I would have tried……

Overall Castaway review

So that’s the general plot, and again like I am Legend it’s not overly complicated – the ending is pretty obvious from the very first couple of scenes. The movie really deals with the loneliness and fear of this type of situation, from the first fear of dying as the plane plunges towards the island, to the stark fear of isolation.

We see moods change as he accomplishes things, perhaps helping to keep his mind one step from insanity. It’s this commentary on the state of the mind and how it affects what we do that makes this a very compelling movie. The sheer weight of the implications of isolation and the attempts at survival is very palpable. The story is very believable and that is what makes the movie very scary and yet profound.

As we look at the wonderful, beautiful island that is portrayed in the movie, it’s very interesting how this wonder is counteracted by the starkness – it’s a commentary that despite the beauty, without any company beauty really does not mean anything. The futility that he feels is obvious, and the movie uses the island as a tool to show this futility.

Overall the sense of desperation and loneliness is very well done. Having said that, this movie needs more than atmosphere and futility to work, it needs a performance from an actor of Oscar quality. Luckily for us, Tom Hanks was available.

There are not many actors that can play a role like this and make it believable. To try and portray the loneliness without having another actor to feed off is very difficult, and mostly Tom pulls this off very well. The movie was a trial both of his acting abilities but also in a physical way. To pull off the role in a convincing way, Tom loses a lot of weight. This makes the movie very convincing and real.

Overall the movie is an excellent one, building on all our fears of being isolated and alone. The stark plot, beautiful island and excellent acting all play a role in making the movie a very thorough examination of what it is to be human, and the power of the human mind.


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author avatar Sivaramakrishnan A
1st Feb 2015 (#)

Good review, it is indeed tough to survive alone against the elements - siva

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