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Cast Away
Special Edition

review by Zach B.


Rated PG-13

Studio: Fox

Running Time: 143 minutes

Starring Tom Hanks, Helen Hunt and Wilson The Volleyball

Written by William Broyles Jr.

Directed by Robert Zemeckis

Retail Price: $29.98

Features: Disc 1 - Audio Commentary with Director Robert Zemeckis, Director Of Photography Don Burgess, Visual Effects Supervisor Ken Ralston, Co-Visual Effects Supervisor Carey Villegas and Sound Designer Randy Thom
Disc 2 - The Making Of Cast Away, S.T.O.P.: Surviving As A Cast Away featurette, The Island featurette, Wilson: The Life and Death of a Hollywood Extra featurette, Special Effects Vingettes, Video and Still Galleries, Charlie Rose Interviews Tom Hanks, Theatrical Teaser, Theatrical Trailer, TV Spots

Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 6.1 EX, English DTS 6.1 ES, English Dolby Surround, French Dolby Surround, English Subtitles, French Subtitles, Chapter Search (32 Chapters), Two-Disc Set, THX Certified

Every holiday season, there is always that one anticipated movie. That one movie with a ton of hype, a great trailer and some impressive talent in front and behind the camera. The movie makes millions at the box office and becomes an instant audience favorite. Last December, that movie was "Cast Away" which was in development for quite a while, starting with an idea Tom Hanks had over six years ago.

I was really looking forward to "Cast Away", but the real question is who wasn't? The film re-teamed Tom Hanks and Robert Zemeckis, who struck box office gold and Oscar® gold with "Forest Gump". The trailers really impressed me (even the full spoiler-filled one) and really made the film look spectacular, sort of like something exciting and new. All those years in the making from the idea, to some shooting to a big break so Hanks could lose weight and to the final product was really worth it. Still, perhaps the main draw of the film is that when "Cast Away" opened up, America had been gripped for a few months on Survivor fever. Yes, everyone's favorite reality game show where sixteen people were casted away on to an island and had to be the last to survive in order to win a million bucks. I think that could have been a factor, considering the show was off the air for a few months and the second season of it was about a month away. Still, I think the anticipation and buzz went around more so than the TV craze, and again, the Zemeckis and Hanks factor doesn't hurt at all. Critics loved the film and audiences as well. The film opened big and performed really strongly, raking in 230 million domestically.

So what is "Survivor The Movie" err, "Cast Away" about? Let's just say if you're expecting "Survivor" you're not getting it. I'm sure people have and will continue to make some sort of comparison between the movie and the popular TV series, but they shouldn't because the only really similairty is being trapped on an island and trying to survive - that's it. In the film, Tom Hanks plays Chuck Noland, a FedEx systems engineer who just works, works and works. And while he's getting cosy for the Christmas season with his love Kelly (Helen Hunt), duty calls and he has to help make a quick delivery. Of course, something's bound to go wrong. The plane ends up crashing in a fantastic action sequence, and Chuck is the only survivor. He ends up on an isolated island, complete with packages, his clothes and some other items. This is where the real film begins and a good majority of the film stays. Noland is stuck on the island and tries to send some help signals, but that ends up failing. (Here come some spoilers, so if you have not seen the trailer and don't want to know what happens I suggest skipping down to the next paragraph. If you have seen the trailer and/or movie itself, keep reading). So, he's stuck on the island for four years as he searches for food and tries to survive, as well as over come some obstacles. Noland also tries to keep his sanity, and does mostly, thanks to his volleyball creation, the loveable Wilson. Noland also goes through an amazing physical transformation. But the time on the island is pretty much a character study of sorts. Noland no longer has work to keep him occupied, it's all about his will to survive. We slowly begin to see what kind of person Chuck really is and not just some kind of work-a-holic, and how this is all done and seamlessly conveyed works really nicely. Of course, as given away in the trailer, Noland does survive. But it has been a few years since his ordeal, and he must come to accept the changes in his life and a new world of sorts, because esentially, Chuck has lost everything. Most importantly, his world has now shifted because his love Kelly was a major part of his life, just like his constant work. Kelly is now married to someone else and things become intense as the whole study of Noland comes together, as he must come to terms with things and start once again. Thankfully, the whole "man who has lost everything who once had everything and now must come to grips" which has been used in films all the time before, is still pretty effective here.

"Cast Away" really, really engrossed me. It was definently one of the best films I saw in 2000, and the long running time felt like a few minutes passed by and that was it. I really did enjoy that much. However, its not without its flaws. The film begins with Hanks working and establishing who Noland is as well as his hectic life. It's necessary to the plot though some may find it boring, but it all kicks into high gear with the plane crash. And then you have the man on the island, with all the challanges, challanges for simple things like food and fire. I was always curious what would happen next to Chuck, and I wanted to know what would happen next. I really got into it. One could argue these parts may get somewhat redudant in some ways and may bore people (perhaps a little too much "island action" for them), but I loved all the island scenes. It's essentially the heart of the film, where Chuck evolves and makes his transistion. All of the island parts entertained me and I really, really got caught up in it. While the ending is good and wraps it up nicely (I LOVE that final shot), I felt the ending dragged on too much with the Chuck and Kelly relationship and got tedious rather quickly. The ending was necessary, but if Zemeckis could have toned it down a little shorter or perhaps Broyles Jr. found a different way to end it, the ending would be a lot smoother for me.

Once again, Tom Hanks delivers a spellbinding performance. He of course got the Golden Globe and was nominated for an Oscar® for this role. This movie, is pretty much "The Tom Hanks Show". He's in nearly every single scene, and just further proves that Hanks is one of the best actors out there working today, and one of the best in the past two decades. Interestingly enough, this performance is a lot more physical. Hanks doesn't say so much when he's on the island, but by watching him, you really get some sort of feeling that he's really stuck on the island as Noland, he just plays it out really well. Helen Hunt, in a smaller role, does perfectly fine as usual and really plays the role to the bone, but I felt the real star of "Cast Away" was everybody's favorite volleyball, the loveable Wilson. Wilson has so much chemistry with Hanks and charisma, he's going to be getting a lot of offers in the near future. I was really upset that the Academy overlooked him in the "Best Supporting Actor" catagory. Wilson really can hold a candle to Tom Hanks.

Back to things technical, Zemeckis works his magic here once again, and Broyles Jr.'s script is well developed. Everything here is crucial, and while I did find the end a bit annoying, it was necessary. It's well written and every scene is entertaining and really worthwhile, you almost think he was trapped on an island and he's writing from experience. He knows how to work it out. The scenary is fantastic, as well as the sets and special effects. The plane crash sequence is intense, and the island events brings everything I mentioned previously come together so well. The way Broyles creates Noland's struggle, the way Zemeckis captures it on screen, the performance, the beautiful scenary and island, special effects and all the little things. I was pretty impressed. So if you were one of the few who missed it in theaters, I have to say that "Cast Away" is pretty refreshing, and definently worth your time.

"Cast Away" is presented in a fabulous 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen (though the box says 2.35:1) transfer, that is THX-Certified (I didn't see a THX logo on the box, but once you pop it in you'll see the THX logo before the movie and find THX Optimode on the first disc). Fox never fails to amaze me, as they truly deliver a gorgeous transfer once again. "Cast Away" is a movie filled with a lot of visuals, and this crystal-clear presentation preserves all the marvel of the island. The trees, the ocean, the sky and the whole atmosphere looks really incredible. Your jaw will probably drop at how beautiful the scenary looks. Colors are perfectly saturated and don't smear, but the transfer has some minor flaws such as some slight shimmering here and there and some nitpicks such as pieces of dirt and grain that pop up now and then. Still, there's no denying what's here is pure near-reference material.

Fox has embraced DTS for quite awhile now, and "Cast Away" features some incredible THX-Certified Dolby Digital EX and DTS ES mixes, and I was incredibly happy to have them both, it really gives a good audio deal for the package. Thankfully, "Cast Away" is a big movie on sound, and the tracks are pure references that will show off any home theater nicely.

Out of both tracks, they're a bit different, but when compared, they really rank neck and neck with me. I guess I like them equally... but each track has some pretty interesting arrangments. It's a little hard to compare them, and I usually give the edge to DTS, but with this film, I don't know. They're simply both great. I guess I'll have to watch the movie on DVD a few more times (a few times with the Dolby and a few times with the DTS) to come to a more concrete desicion, since there's so much to really hear with these tracks. During some scenes I liked the Dolby Digital better, but with others, DTS was a little better. Every little noise and every little sound effect counts. Again, there's just so much to behold in these tracks due to the film's amazing sound style and sounds themselves. It all adds up.

I found the Dolby Digital EX to be a little bit louder in some areas, but during surrounds I felt it kept things a little bit more closed. With the DTS, it seemed to have a lot more depth and was nice around the edges, often at times bringing you in more to the film than the Dolby Digital. I found litttle sounds, such as the pocket watch ticking to be more empowering in the Dolby Digital but more subtle in the DTS. Each of the tracks boast a plentiful of surrounds and are well balanced. The waves crashing on the shore of the island, the beautiful Alan Silvestri score, some eventful things that happen on the island, and of course, the plane crash which is quite an intense sequence and brings a lot of life to all the speakers. Make no mistake, each of the tracks will really suck you into the movie. Also included are Dolby Surround tracks in English and French, and English and French subtitles.

Fox delivers another terrific two-disc set, and I wouldn't expect less from them considering how successful the movie was and how much there is on creating a film like "Cast Away". On the first disc there's an Audio Commentary with Director Robert Zemeckis, Director Of Photography Don Burgess, Visual Effects Supervisor Ken Ralston, Co-Visual Effects Supervisor Carey Villegas and Sound Designer Randy Thom. This commentary is clearly edited and doesn't always stay screen specific, but there's a wealth of information you're going to eat up. This track is pretty dry, but it's not boring and informative. There's a lot of technical stuff as far as scenes go, as well as some aspects of the story. A very good track with a variety of information.

Now on to the second disc... The Making Of Cast Away features interviews with Zemeckis, Hunt, Hanks, Broyles Jr. and others, as well clips from the film. There are also some behind the scenes clips. This is really informative and goes through the process and the history of the project, and even going in depth on to some island parts with a good deal of information there. What I really liked was the behind-the-scenes footage. Usually on these things we see the clips over a voice over, but we get some sense of set life and how things were established and done. Please watch this. It goes through some major scenes and important points about the movie.

The Featurettes section features three of them. The first one, S.T.O.P.: Surviving As A Cast Away has interviews with Boryles Jr. and James Simmons (an author), among two other experts and features clips from the film. The real focus on this one has the four going on about surving the island, about surviving and offers a real-life perspective to an extent and a history perspective. I found this interesting at times but boring at other times.
The Island is the second featurette that features location manager Mary Morgan. There's some behind the scenes clips and basically focuses on the actual island where they shot the movie, as well as info on the shoot and the island. There's also a tour of the "production village" Nicely done.
Wilson: The Life And Death Of A Hollywood Extra (my favorite character in the movie) is the subject of the third and final featurette. This is less serious than the other two, and definently my favorite. It has interviews with Hanks, Broyles and others as well as clips from the film and behind the scenes footage. So if you love Wilson, watch this. It's pretty fun.

The next section is called Special Effects Vignettes has commentary from Ken Ralston and Carey Villegas on six sequences: "The Plane Crash", "The Island Revealed", "Climbing The Mountain Top", "The Wind Changes Direction On The Island", "The Raft Goes Over A Big Wave" and "The Whales" Basically each sequence shows the footage of the film and how the special effects were formed, complete with the commentary. Really interesting and fascinating how it was all done, and each shows how they were accomplished with computers and everything. It's not confusing at all and just really interesting, though they are kind of short.

Video And Stills Galleries is broken up into a few sections. "Behind The Scenes Image Gallery" is a lot of production photos and some storyboards in a montage played against music. The "Storyboard Galleries" shows storyboards from "Losing Wilson", "Raft Escape" and "Plane Crash" and compares them to the final shot, and you can even watch them in a montage of sorts. There's also a "Illustrations & Storyboards" section with "Chuck's Raft", "Opening Sequence", "Raft Assembly" and "Raft Launch" while "Conceptual Artwork" has Raft Illustatiuons, Raft Sequence, Day Rowing, Fishing, Day Whales and Night Whales.

Charlie Rose Interviews Tom Hanks is a valuable addition to the disc. I am a big Charlie Rose fan actually, I do watch his show quite often. I think he's a really intelligent and bright guy, who actually goes into the material nicely when discussing and actually sees/reads whatever it is. There's some great exchanges between the two here and good info from the film, so it's not to be missed. A chapter function of sorts would have been nice here though.

Finally, you have Ten TV Spots and each of the two Theatrical Trailers in full frame.

On a side note, the menus are fantastic and perfectly fit in with the film. They have great animations and wonderful sound, and are even a little hautning. Nicely done, some of the best menus I've seen in a long time.

"Cast Away" all around is a excellent and really tremendous movie, featuring Tom Hanks at his best and a really intriguing character study of sorts. Fox has not disappointed with this release, as the transfer is top-notch and the sound is some the best you'll ever hear on DVD. There are also some great supplements that really go into the film, all for a great price. Definently one of the best releases of the summer, and it probably will rank as one of the best DVD efforts of 2001. "Cast Away" is not to be missed.

(4/5 - NOT included in final score)




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