THE CRITIC DOCTOR EXAMINES: Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times), Ron Wells (filmthreat.com), Kenneth Turan (Los Angeles Times), MaryAnn Johnson (flickfilosopher.com), Mick LaSalle (San Francisco Chronicle), Stephen Farber (movieline.com), Paul Clinton (CNN.com), Susan Stark (Detroit News) and James Berardinelli (reelviews.net).
* * * * out of 4 stars (PG-13)
When I saw every major plot point revealed in the trailer for “Cast Away,” and heard the film was predominantly Tom Hanks stranded alone on a deserted island, I thought we might be reading the words “HELP!” etched inside our eyelids. Though the film is a victim of “trailer trash,” we do find a worthy message washing up on shore.
“Cast Away” is a movie about Chuck Noland (Tom Hanks), a FedEx executive whose plane crashes and strands him on a deserted island in the South Pacific. Chuck’s alone and what ensues is an incredible one-man performance from Tom Hanks (making up about two-thirds of the movie).
Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times) said, “Hanks proves here again what an effective actor he is, never straining for an effect, always persuasive even in this unlikely situation, winning our sympathy with his eyes and his body language when there’s no one else on the screen.”
Ron Wells (filmthreat.com) thinks the movie spent too much time on the island and said, “I wanted to see more of the story of how he found his way in his new life, but the producers seemed to feel it was time to go.”
Indeed Chuck returns home and meets up with his girlfriend Kelly (Helen Hunt). The scenes that followed, I believe, was appropriate considering the circumstances. In the end, the film encourages us to use our own imagination. Perhaps something you should try, Ron?
Kenneth Turan (Los Angeles Times) said, “Chuck’s stretch on that spot comes off as boring and anticlimactic.”
Uh, it’s your film review, Ken, that’s boring. Hanks’ performance on the island commands our attention! MaryAnn Johnson (flickfilosopher.com) got it right: ” Hanks is ultimately what makes ‘Cast Away’ a tremendously moving film about the things that make us human, and the things we cling to in order to retain our humanity.”
There is a fascinating element in the film where Hanks becomes buddies with a volleyball he named Wilson. He talks to Wilson daily, a means by which he keeps his sanity. He argues, apologizes and even weeps with Wilson. Some critics thought this was insane.
Mick LaSalle (San Francisco Chronicle) said, “Such scenes are meant to highlight Chuck’s desperation. Instead they show the desperate lengths to which an actor will go in pursuit of another Oscar nomination.” Stephen Farber (movieline.com) said, “Hanks shows his skill in scenes of silent desperation, but his monologues with Wilson fall over into histrionic excess.” Paul Clinton (CNN.com) simply refers to Wilson as “that stupid volleyball.”
I’m beginning to wonder if Wilson is the real airhead here. Listen guys. That so-called “stupid” volleyball was one of the most intelligent devises used in the movie that allowed us to enter the mind of Chuck Noland.
Susan Stark (Detroit News) got it right: “It takes an actor of Tom Hanks’ trustworthiness and skill to make a series of monologues posing as dialogues with Wilson the volleyball to convince you that human company, as much as shelter, water, food and fire, is essential to life as most of us understand it.
James Berardinelli (reelviews.net) summed the movie up best: “It has all the hallmarks of a great motion picture: well-developed characters, solid drama, non-traditional adventure, and an intelligent script. It’s among my picks as one of the best films of the year.”
We’ve all been stranded in our lives in one way or another, but the tides of life eventually bring in another day of hope to rescue us from our own inner island. “Cast Away” reminds us to pay attention to those tides.
And if you can’t get on with life, get a volleyball.