- Cast Away (2000) movie review: Robert Zemeckis’ big-budget Adventures of Robinson Crusoe and “Enoch Arden” mix ultimately amounts to less than the sum of its top-quality parts, which include Tom Hanks’ star turn, Alan Silvestri’s score, and Don Burgess’ cinematography.
- Cast Away received two Academy Award nominations: Best Actor (Tom Hanks) and Best Sound.
Cast Away (2000) movie review: Memorable Tom Hanks in Robert Zemeckis’ high-concept adventure flick disguised as existential drama
Most people will see Robert Zemeckis’ 2000 hit movie Cast Away as a celebration of the Triumph of the Human Spirit.
A (however small) minority, this reviewer included, will prefer the more mundane assessment that this psychological adventure drama merely depicts a man following his survival instincts, which propel him – like any other animal, from cockroaches to crocodiles – to fight to remain alive no matter the obstacles.
But whichever way one interprets the survival of Tom Hanks’ Federal Express engineer Chuck Noland (No-land, get it?) after being stranded for years on a small, deserted Pacific island (mostly shot in Monuriki, Fiji), one thing is obvious for all to see: Cast Away is little more than an elaborate, crowd-pleasing star vehicle disguised as an existential drama that borrows heavily from both Daniel Defoe’s 1719 novel The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe and Alfred Tennyson’s 1864 poem “Enoch Arden.”
Cast Away plot: My friend Wilson
The story of a workaholic who must learn to live without work, without clocks, and without people – Chuck’s sole companion on the island is a volleyball named Wilson – this $90 million budget turn-of-the-millennium release barely scratches the surface in its exploration of the ever-elusive Meaning of Life.
Not helping matters, Cast Away also leaves much to be desired in terms of character development; unless, that is, one takes into account Wilson’s radical transformation from brand new volleyball into something resembling a rotting pineapple. For instead of dealing with Chuck’s inner metamorphosis from Man of the Clock to Man of the Now, William Broyles Jr.’s screenplay places its focus on the hero’s failed attempts at leaving the island and on his determination to break a coconut shell.
Yet if the overlong (139-minute) Cast Away is considerably less profound than its makers may have intended it to be – much like Robert Zemeckis’ previous collaboration with Tom Hanks, that monumental paean to idiocy and conformism known as Forrest Gump – the film does have a number of good qualities, among them its top-of-the-line production values and state-of-the-art special effects that are used to create what may well be the most harrowing plane crash ever filmed.
Tom Hanks runs the gamut
Additionally, the capable Tom Hanks (who also received a producer credit) has the chance to run the gamut, at least outwardly, from neurotic workaholic to jungle savage to Zen Master.
Even though the screenplay prevents the viewer from ever getting to learn the intricacies of Chuck’s inner transformation, the two-time Best Actor Academy Award winner acquits himself remarkably well, mostly managing to surpass the limitations imposed on his character.
If some of the island humor feels juvenile – e.g., the scene in which Chuck sings “Come On Baby Light My Fire” should have been left stranded on the cutting-room floor – Hanks wins points for his dramatic moments. Really, how many actors could weep for the loss of their hairy volleyball without looking laughably ridiculous?
No one is indispensable
Cast Away is also immensely helped by Alan Silvestri’s score, which we first hear about two hours into the film, when Chuck finally escapes his tropical prison. Through Chuck’s point of view, we see the island fade behind the ocean mist, while Silvestri’s music increases in intensity to create one of those rare enchanting screen moments.
Not even Silvestri, however, can save the corny (momentary) reunion between Chuck and his former fiancée, Kelly (Helen Hunt). Although she professes her undying love for the ex-castaway, Kelly has moved on with her life.
Thus, the encounter serves merely as a justification for the film’s pretentious two-word title: Not even Federal Express workers are indispensable.
Alan Silvestri’s music returns later on to help elevate Cast Away’s tacked-on whimsical finale – a “fateful” contrivance that feels more like a poor imitation of Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Three Colors: Red than the intended moment of epiphany in the spiritual journey of our hero.
Yet, contrived or not, this reviewer was moved in spite of his better judgment, partly because of Silvestri’s haunting melody and partly because of Tom Hanks’ touching, minimalist look of renewed hope.
Cast Away (2000) cast & crew
Director: Robert Zemeckis.
Screenplay: William Broyles Jr.
Tom Hanks … Chuck Noland
Helen Hunt … Kelly Frears
Nick Searcy … Stan
Jenifer Lewis … Becca Twig
Geoffrey Blake … Maynard Graham
Peter Von Berg … Yuri
Chris Noth … Jerry Lovett
Lari White … Bettina Peterson
Nan Martin … Kelly’s Mother
Paul Sanchez … Ramon
Leonid Citer … Fyodor
Cinematography: Don Burgess.
Film Editing: Arthur Schmidt.
Music: Alan Silvestri.
Producers: Steve Starkey, Tom Hanks, Robert Zemeckis, and Jack Rapke.
Production Design: Rick Carter.
Costume Design: Joanna Johnston.
Production Companies: ImageMovers | Playtone.
Distributors: DreamWorks Pictures | 20th Century Fox.
Running Time: 139 min.
Country: United States.
“Cast Away (2000) Movie Review” notes
 While filming was interrupted for about a year, Tom Hanks went on a steady diet so he could look emaciated in his later scenes on the island.
During the year-long Cast Away movie break, Robert Zemeckis directed Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer in the hit thriller What Lies Beneath.
“Cast Away (2000) Movie” endnotes
Cast Away movie credits via the American Film Institute (AFI) website.
Tom Hanks Cast Away movie images: DreamWorks Pictures | 20th Century Fox.
“Cast Away (2000 Movie): Tom Hanks Carries Existential-ish Drama” last updated in March 2023.
I have been told that I am TOTALLY wrong on this by a FEW ppl….so, I’m going to ask you -
IN THE THEATER - when Hanks comes back, there is a scene where He and Helen Hunt are at Hunt’s home, and she is showing him all the search maps - …they had sex in the theater release. After which, he asked “Will I see you again ?” and she says “Yes, but not like today”. That scene never made it to DVD or TV -
Does ANYONE remember this ? My sister says it never happened.
Thank you for the insight. I hadn’t seen the movie, but after I found your site and read this review I felt I must see it. Low and behold! I agree with you. Your review is sopt on. The movie had some good moments, but overal it’s too Hollywood. NEXT!
This movie is pure genius, anyone that does not understand this, clearly did not understand the movie. They did not catch the subtle nuisances, here inlies the genius. Depending on your IQ, you may need to watch it more than twice. While I could talk about the subtleties to length, I will only address one. Where the road is, is of no importance, what it represents is. It’s a cross roads, he has choices to make, the roads can lead him where chooses. He clearly chooses to go back down the road he just came. His life is with the women in the truck, notice the wings she sculpts, follow them through the movie, only then will you understand.
I think this review is pretty spot on, Andre. I always had major issues with the movie, not least of which was everything AFTER he gets off the island. If not for Tom Hanks performance, this movie would have been useless to me. Although I enjoyed Forest Gump, your point about THIS movie’s pretentions and attempts at deeper meanings that just aren’t there is absolutely true.
One problem I had was a lack of focus on character development. And don’t misunderstand me. It’s true that almost the entire movie is about just ONE character. But the thing that always bugged me about that was how little we actually come to learn about him, or who he is. We know bits and pieces, but the screenplay really leaves the audience on the outside more than it should. That’s not Tom Hanks fault at all. He gives us exactly what’s asked of him and more. The problem is that what’s asked of him seems surprisingly little in the way of actual depth and understanding. Much of the screenplay is based around simple ideas and situations of physical survival.
I will say that the “relationship” he creates with Wilson was a very interesting choice. But it could have been used in a much more interesting way, i.e. using Wilson as a catalyst to explore his former self, his life before the island, his hopes or his dreams, etc. Instead, we really just get a pseudo-buddy movie moments that tend to ring more false than I would have liked.
why did chuck say that the package saved his life?
Anyone know the model year of the red truck? For some reason, I think it was in Texas - I saw a road sign or something, but not 100% sure.
i ask where were the last few scenes in the movie taken
The bookend scenes were filmed in Canadian, Texas, acording to one press release. Interesting since the artist who made the wings (Broyles wife) was born in Canada.
Dear Sir/ Madam,
Castaway 2000, with Tom Hanks, Helen Hunt.
Please can you help? In the film Castaway,Tom Hanks 2000. Who is the actress at the end of the film driving the red truck, where he delivered the Fed Ex parcel to her house.
I think it’s Helen Hunt, can you confirm?
That’s not Helen Hunt. The woman driving the truck is Lari White, a country music singer. She also appears at the beginning of the film.