This weekend Cast Away trundled loudly into theatres and devoured its competition like a trio of man eating sharks feasting on a Value Jet smorgasbord. But good filmmaking is not about numbers, nor is it about how fast you can chew the competition's leg off and feed it to your young.
It seems like that any time Tom Hanks puts a film out these days people start screaming the word OSCAR all around town. Frankly who cares, I doubt Tom does after winning two, so why should you? That having been said, Cast Away's success rests solely on a single actor, who for 75% of the film is the only person on screen. Previous rumors notwithstanding, Cast Away does in fact focus on a single person trapped on a deserted island in the Pacific for 4 years. Its also briefly about his return to society, and coping with the problems of having, for all intents and purposes, been dead for the last 4 years.
Tom Hanks plays (as usual) an every-man, cast into disaster, struggling for survival in a fight against a slow slip into madness and a struggle to find a reason to live. He is alone, VERY alone, and Cast Away conveys this well, not only through Hanks fine acting, but also through its stellar soundtrack. What makes Cast Away's soundtrack so perfect? There isn't one. There also is next to no dialogue through over half the film. Just sounds of sand, surf, and wind. This man is truly and UTTERLY alone, and the silence of it all helps bring the audience along on this lonely journey with him.
Hanks has a real talent for saying a lot with his expressions, and its really put to test in this dialogueless film, especially when he is further hampered by having 4 years worth of beard on his face. Fortunately by this time, Hanks character is completely mad and has made a friend to talk to in the form of his Volleyball companion "Wilson". But even through that shaggy beard, Hanks eyes say so much about his mind... or lack thereof.
Cast Away isn't perfect. It is at times slow and tedious, and tends to waste more time than necessary getting to the point. But if nothing else, it takes an old idea and puts it together in a way that is not only believable, but creative as well. This is a film about reality. This is what would really happen to YOU if YOU were trapped alone on this island. Would YOU survive? Would YOU find the will to live when it seemed there was no reason to go on? Would YOU fall prey to Richard's machinations and be voted off the island or would you go home with 1 million dollars?
Cast Away is a film for those with patience and a willingness to put themselves in the movie alongside its character. It's not a film about the triumph of the human spirit, just a film about a guy who manages to survive, and comes home to find he must become someone else.