In Cast Away, Tom Hanks plays Chuck Noland, a driven FedEx supervisor who is stranded on an uninhabited island in the Pacific for four years. Robert Zemeckis (who also directed Hanks in Forrest Gump) has attempted a meditative blockbuster.Cast Away has a lengthy prologue and coda focusing on Noland's work and home life in Memphis, with girlfriend Kelly Frears (Helen Hunt). But the showpiece of the film is the hour and a half it spends with Noland on the island. There's no incidental music, and not much dialogue - Noland only has a volleyball for company (the island is strangely devoid of wildlife). Hanks lost a lot of weight and grew a Robinson Crusoe beard to simulate the physical changes in Noland, but more impressive is the stillness he brings to the character once he's returned to human civilisation.
Zemeckis is a gimmicky director (he follows a FedEx parcel's point of view as if he was filming an ad), but he knows how to stage a spectacular plane crash. The use of sound on the island (which is more than the blessed lack of Alan Silvestri's syrupy score) is phenomenal - kudos to the sound department. The script by William Broyles Jr is intelligent, and less predictable than I expected (or is that the choppy editing - it sometimes feels as if chunks of the movie are missing). What's frustrating is that Noland doesn't seem to learn from his time on the island. When he finally begins to let go of his obsession with time back in Memphis, it's as much from external pressures and a lack of choice as from his enforced isolation.Zemeckis' blockbuster approach robs the story of its implications. Cast Away leaves you little to think about once its over.