Ossus Library Index Drama Movie Index


Directed by Robert Zemeckis (2000, 20th Century Fox)
Starring Tom Hanks, Helen Hunt, and Nick Searcy

A FedEx supervisor gets stranded on a deserted island and improvises implements to survive.



3 stars

February 6th, 2001 in the Theatre

    A one man show, quite enjoyable while he's stranded, with scenes in civilization that are a little slow. 

I think the movie could have been cut down in time by quite a bit. In no way did it need two and a half house. There was about half an hour in civilization (or Russia, anyway) before the plane crash, and probably half an hour afterwards, too. Those scenes are inconsequential, for the most part. What little the beginning does is set up how obsessed Chuck is with time and efficiency, but doesn't really show his devotion for his girlfriend that would bring him through his four years alone on the island. Afterwards, four years since his "death", Kelly has moved on, has a daughter with another man, and has lived a life. She still loves him, as they are soul mates, but she has to stay with her family. How do you resolve that kind of situation? And so Chuck has been "cast away". 

I can't figure out the ending. He claims that the one FedEx package that he didn't open on the island saved his life, but I don't know how, except perhaps to keep a purpose in getting home. But didn't Kelly's picture do that? And in the last scene he stands at a cross-roads, obviously at a crossroads in his life, smiling a dumb smile. How is that closure?

But the scenes on the island were fun, and really neat for the most part. With all the "reality TV" shows these days, this could have been a type of Survivor, I think (since I've never seen more than a few minutes of any of them). And while I'm on the topic, I wish the current craze of reality-type filming would just go away. Sure, steady film doesn't show us what it's like in real life, because our vision is not that steady. But neither does jumping film, either! Our eyes are built to handle sudden movements without us getting dizzy, for the most part. A camera that moves up and down with a person's step, like in the Blair Witch Project, or with the running soldiers in Saving Private Ryan, or bobbing up and down on the waves, as in this movie, is not realistic. First, our perspective is on a screen that takes up less than half our vision, while in reality, our bodies have no fixed reference frame like the seat in front of us, or the walls of the theatre. Second, our brain adjusts for the body's motion, so that we don't see it like that. So anyway... (now that that's over with...)

The parts on the island were the most fun. There was the air of disbelief when he arrived, then resignation later on, hope when he saw his friend's body floating on the waves and when he saw the light in the ocean early on, and to despair. 

He knows there will be a search party, so he neatly stacks the FedEx packages that he finds floating on the waves, so they can be sent to the appropriate destination. Finally, as the days pass, he decides to open them. Finally, he has tools. He can cut with skate blades, fish with a netted dress, and eventually uses videotape as rope or string. And then there's the volleyball, made by sports company Wilson. Wilson gains a face by way of a bloodied hand, and becomes the inspiration for making fire. With fire, he enjoys crab and fish cooked to perfection (eventually, I'm sure). 

Wilson also becomes his companion for four years. The volleyball obviously loses air somewhere along the line, so Chuck puts reeds on top to create hair for "him". And he keeps his sanity and language skills by conversing with Wilson, though I'm keeping a very loose definition on "sane". 

Whoever wrote this screenplay really did their homework, because the science aspects were all well done. He couldn't get off the island because he couldn't overcome the huge waves. His calendar was made with a flashlight faceplate, which projected the sun onto a cave wall. He drew the analemma and marked the months on it. Because the sun seems to vary in latitude through the year, it creates a figure 8, with one loop being wider than the other. This is called the analemma, and most people writing movies would not realize this is the case. His tools were well devised, too, though personally I would have pulled the rotten tooth out rather than hammer it in, and risk slipping and sending the skate right through my throat, and lie paralyzed on in excruciating pain for my last hours. He was fortunate that he only knocked himself out. 

I found it hilarious when Chuck couldn't figure out what all the noises were in the night. I would have been terrified, and maybe sought out shelter up a tree (which is probably not good shelter for that climate, where he might have encountered monkeys). The best sounds were the falling fruits. I called that one immediately, but it took Chuck a night and another day. 

One day a sheet of aluminum comes his way, so he finally has a sail, and he builds a raft. He has been noting the direction of the winds, so he ties bark together and weaves lots of rope to lash the tree trunks together with. He finally makes it over the last waves using his sail, but that's the easy part. Where to go? After who knows how long at sea after that, drinking rain water, and probably not eating much, one storm takes away his sail, and in the morning, Wilson falls off the raft. Chuck nearly drowns trying to save the volleyball, showing that he's not quite sane, after all. But a whale accompanies him, spraying him with a jet of water when finally a ship comes along.

The movie was really a one-man show for the most part. It was a gadget movie, seeing how a wise but desperate man would cope being alone. I don't know that he would have ended up being as sane as he actually was after that long a time, but I suppose it's plausible. Whatever the reality, this movie showed some neat improvisation, which must have required a lot of thought to begin with. If only a story of a man alone on a deserted island could be a little more interesting!

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