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Robert Zemeckis
Tom Hanks, Helen Hunt, Paul Sanchez, Lari White, Leonid Citer, David Allen Brooks, Nan Martin, Anne Bellamy, Dennis Letts
Writing Credits:
William Broyles Jr.

At the edge of the world, his journey begins.

A FedEx executive must transform himself physically and emotionally to survive a crash landing on a deserted island.

Box Office:
$90 million.
Opening Weekend
$39.852 million on 2774 screens.
Domestic Gross
$233.630 million.

Rated PG-13

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Spanish Dolby Surround 2.0
French Dolby Surround 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 143 min.
Price: $16.99
Release Date: 12/4/2007

• Audio Commentary with Director Robert Zemeckis, Director of Photography Don Burgess, Visual Effects Supervisor Ken Ralston, Co-Visual Effects Supervisor Carey Villegas, and Sound Designer Randy Thom
• Trivia Track
• Trailer and Previews


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Cast Away [Blu-Ray] (2000)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 11, 2015)

In my dream world, Iíd love to never know a darned thing about any movie that I see. While some films actually benefit from foreknowledge, most of the time they work best when you donít know what will come around the corner.

While I never saw Cast Away prior to my acquisition of the original 2001 DVD, I still didnít enter it as fresh as I would have liked; the slate wasnít full, but nor was it blank. Much of the reason for that stemmed from the filmís trailers.

As is usually the case with the films of director Robert ďI love spoilers!Ē Zemeckis, the previews gave away an awful lot of the story. I didnít think the ads for Cast Away were as offensive in that regard as were the promos for Contact and What Lies Beneath, but they left less to the imagination than Iíd like.

However, I must acknowledge that Cast Away is difficult to discuss without the appearance of potential spoilers. Iíll do my best to avoid those, but if youíre eager to avoid any potential plot points, feel free to skip to my discussion of the discís quality. Iím wonít cover any material not revealed during the movieís ads, but since those are so spoiler-filled, that decision may still be problematic.

Cast Away tells the story of FedEx employee Chuck Noland (Tom Hanks). A resident of Memphis, he works as an efficiency expert and he trains FedEx teams to perform as expeditiously as possible. Time rules his universe, and as he leaves girlfriend Kelly (Helen Hunt) for an apparently-quick trip, he tells her ďIíll be right backĒ.

Or maybe not. As part of Godís great plan to teach Chuck not to worry so much about time, his flight crashes into the Pacific. Heís the sole survivor and he washes up on a deserted island. Left with little more than his wits to survive, we follow Chuckís attempts at survival.

On the surface, thereís not much to Cast Away; the plot seems so thin thatís it hard to imagine the filmmakers could fill an hour with its events, much less 143 minutes. However, not only does Zemeckis occupy that lengthy period with material, but also he and the rest of the crew create a rather fascinating experience that succeeds well beyond my hopes.

I maintain somewhat ambivalent feelings toward Zemeckisí body of work. At his best, he can be absolutely terrific. Going back to the Seventies, I always loved his loopy Beatles-related comedy I Wanna Hold Your Hand, and all three of the Back to the Future flicks are fun. 1988ís Who Framed Roger Rabbit was also a delightful film, and Zemeckis has produced a number of other enjoyable projects over the years.

And then there was Gump. Objectively, 1994ís Forrest Gump was a decent movie, but I never have understood the popularity it inspired, and its Oscar victory over the vastly-superior Pulp Fiction remains absurd.

Since Gump, Zemeckis has been less than terrific. 1997ís Contact was marginally entertaining but tedious, and was a near-total dud. Zemeckis spent years with lackluster animated films before he returned to live-action with 2012ís flawed Flight.

To put it mildly, I really liked Cast Away, mostly due to the excellent performance by Hanks. One unfortunate problem with his two Best Actor victories is that they come from somewhat gimmicky roles. For his character in Philadelphiz, Hanks had to lose a lot of weight to simulate the ravages of illness, whereas in Gump he played a moron. Oscar loves performances that require the actor to stretch in some superficial manner, and Hanks met those criteria via these two roles.

Ironically, what was arguably Hanksí strongest performance came as the boy-turned-man in 1988ís Big, but he lost to a pre-Gump mentally deficient character due to Dustin Hoffmanís work in Rain Man. For the record, I suppose one could call Bigís Josh a ďgimmickyĒ part since Hanks played a boy in a manís body, but at least Hanks had to play a regular human being. The character had no mental issues, and Hanks had to do nothing to alter his appearance. While Philadelphiaís Andrew was an average guy, the physical demands put the role into ďgimmickĒ territory in my opinion.

For Cast Away, Hanks again needed to go through some physical changes, and these were actually more severe than those experienced for Philadelphia. Prior to the start of shooting, Hanks gained a load of blubber and appeared that way during the filmís first half.

The movie was shot in two parts, and after a few months of initial photography, the project went into almost a yearís hiatus so Hanks could lose weight and grow hair. When they reconvened in early 2000, Hanks had dropped about 50 pounds and scruffied up himself to play Chuck after four years on the island.

While itíd be easy to dismiss Hanksí work in Cast Away as the kind of physical gimmickry Iíve discussed, thatíd be far too easy. Instead, Hanks offers a truly great performance as the stranded man that proves to be shockingly fascinating. Much of Cast Away passes with little dialogue and not much apparently-compelling action; I mean, how interesting is it to watch a guy try to start a fire? Pretty darned interesting, as it happens, at least when Hanks is the man at work.

A great deal of the film simply displays Chuckís attempts to survive on the island, and all of this should seem dull. There were no other humans with whom he could interact, so it was all up to Hanks. Sure, he adds a simulated person via volleyball Wilson partway through his journey, and that at least allows him to speak to ďsomeoneĒ, but there are no people to take the load off of Hanks or give him anything against which he can react.

Itís all up to Hanks, and he comes through swimmingly. I canít adequately describe why the performance is so good; itís one that must be seen to be appreciated. All I know is that itís ridiculous that Russell Crowe beat Hanks for Best Actor; while Crowe was solid during his star-making turn in Gladiator, his work doesnít compare with the demands and subtleties of Hanksí.

Frankly, itís sad that Cast Away received so little Oscar attention. The movie didnít even get a nod for Best Picture although itís a more creative, compelling and adventuresome effort than most of those that were nominated. Perhaps all of this came from a mild backlash against Hanks and Zemeckis; I canít think of another good reason why something unusual like Cast Away would be left out while a trifle such as Chocolat got a nod.

Despite a few minor missteps, Cast Away remains a surprisingly entertaining and winning experience. The subject sounds boring but the execution ensured that almost none of the movie passes without interesting and compelling events. Led by a great performance from Tom Hanks, Cast Away offers an unusual tale that succeeds beyond all hopes and creates an engrossing story.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B-/ Audio A-/ Bonus C+

Cast Away appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. A fairly early Blu-ray, the image looked generally good but showed its age.

Sharpness usually seemed positive, but exceptions occurred, as some shots could be somewhat soft. Most of the flick showed good accuracy and delineation, though. I noticed no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, and edge haloes remained absent. I noticed no digital noise reduction, but a smattering of small print flaws appeared.

Colors appeared rich and vibrant. For obvious reasons, Cast Away used a naturalistic palette, and the hues looked accurate and lush. The scenery on the island really seemed nice, as the greens, golds and blues were lovely and vivid. Black levels consistently appeared deep and dense, but shadow detail occasionally showed problems, mostly due to the use of ďday for nightĒ photography. Those shots tended to be too thick and impenetrable. Despite issues with shadows and softness, the transfer fared well in most ways and merited a ďB-Ē.

The DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Cast Away alternated between louder scenes - storms, the plane crash, etc. - and gentle/quiet sequences, especially during the parts of the film where Noland got acclimated to the island. The atmosphere seemed to be involving and appropriate throughout the film, as all five channels provided realistic and engrossing sound. In the quiet scenes, the ambience was natural and encompassing; the effects cropped up slightly in logical locations and all blended together well.

However, it was during the louder sequences that the soundtracks earned their keep. When the plane encountered trouble, I nearly had a heart attack from the auditory slam that ensued, and the other scenes were also exceedingly well-presented; the sound came at me from all sides when necessary. The roar of the ocean and the rumble of thunder appeared strongly displayed, and all parts of this track worked quite well. The sound designers did a terrific job of making the movie seem natural but still powerful.

Audio quality was also terrific. Dialogue came across as warm and natural with no problems related to edginess or intelligibility; the looped lines were neatly integrated into the action and they did not stand out in any way. Music was the least significant factor in Cast Away since so much of the film progressed without a score. When we do hear music, it sounded clear and bright, with fine reproduction.

Because music and speech presented often-inconsequential aspects of the film, it was especially important that the effects appear excellent, and they did. It was clear that the sound designers really did their homework for this movie, and the various elements always seemed clean and realistic with no signs of distortion.

The effects were distinct and well-defined, and they showed fine dynamics. Bass response often could be fantastic; this flick packed some serious low end at times. All of the various elements made the soundtracks to Cast Away consistently terrific.

How did the Blu-ray compare to the original 2001 DVD? Audio was a bit bolder and more expressive, while visuals seemed more dynamic and concise. Even with the mild softness, this was an improvement over the DVD.

Unfortunately, the Blu-ray omits most of the original 2-DVD setís extras. It does carry over an audio commentary from director Robert Zemeckis, director of photography Don Burgess, visual effects supervisor Ken Ralston, co-visual effects supervisor Carey Villegas, and sound designer Randy Thom. Ralston and Villegas were recorded together, but all other participants were taped individually. The results were edited into this one cohesive, semi-screen-specific piece.

I call the track ďsemi-screen-specificĒ because although the topics usually relate pretty closely to the parts of the film being shown at the time, they donít hew with great strictness; the participants can veer off into other related subjects on occasion. In any case, I thought this was a terrific commentary.

One look at the roles of the trackís participants should let you know this is a fairly technically-oriented piece, and normally I regard that as a bad thing; those kinds of programs can become tedious and drab. However, thatís not the case during Cast Away, even though we hear little about the creative aspects of the film. Zemeckis provides virtually all of those elements as he discusses story changes and complications that affected the tale.

Though the other participants mainly stick to their particular disciplines, I never feel that the commentary seems dull or too technically involved. Instead, we get a great deal of fascinating information about the manner in which each man worked on the film. Since Cast Away isnít a typical effects flick, itís interesting to hear about the elements that Ralston and Villegas contributed, and Burgess also adds some nice statements about his area.

Surprisingly, however, Thom emerges as the star of the show. He dominates the track and contributes the most compelling sections. Thom gives us Sound Design 101 as he goes over the different challenges offered by this naturalistic film. I know more about the subject than the average Joe, but I still found a lot of new information throughout Thomís comments. He lets us know how much work had to be put into the piece to make it appear so seamless, and he offers a fascinating point of view. Ultimately, I really enjoyed the track for Cast Away as it provides a thoroughly entertaining and illuminating piece.

A Trivia Track discusses a few areas. It covers story/character elements, sets and locations, various effects, cast and performances, the challenging nature of the shoot, and some other topics. We get a decent array of notes, but the track doesnít tell us a ton. The blurbs pop up infrequently and offer only minor insights.

Under ďFox on Blu-rayĒ, we get a trailer for Cast Away as well as previews for The Devil Wears Prada, Kingdom of Heaven, Men of Honor and Night at the Museum.

Cast Away brings us a surprisingly exciting, moving and compelling affair that benefited from a top-notch performance by Tom Hanks. Frankly, acting doesnít get much better than the work Hanks offers here. The Blu-ray offers decent visuals, very good audio and a couple of generally useful bonus materials. Itís too bad the Blu-ray leaves out so many of the DVDís supplements, but it does deliver an improved presentation of the film itself.

To rate this film visit the DVD review of CAST AWAY

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