Director: Robert Zemeckis
Cast: Tom Hanks, Helen Hunt, Nick Searcy, Chris Noth
Released: December 22, 2000
Viewed in theaters: 22, 2000
Best Actor - Tom Hanks (lost to Russell Crowe for Gladiator)
Best Sound (lost to Gladiator)
Yeah, spoilers, obviously! So if you've never seen this and don't know what happens, don't read if you ever plan on watching this in the future!
Yeah, spoilers, obviously! So if you've never seen this and don't know what happens, don't read if you ever plan on watching this in the future!
Not since Rosebud in Citizen Kane has there been another well-known inanimate object in a film until Wilson the volleyball came along in Cast Away. Watching this movie is probably the only time I will ever cry over a volleyball (let's hope so, anyway, or else I have some serious issues!), but we'll get to that later.
I had seen this movie a couple times before. I saw it in the theaters and I've also seen it since then, but it has been awhile. I didn't remember the fate of Wilson and I thought most of the movie takes places when Tom Hanks is stranded on the island. While that is a good chunk of the film, there is a good portion that takes place in the civilized world before and after the island life, but it is a two and a half hour movie.
We first meet Chuck Noland (Tom Hanks) in Moscow where he works for Fed-Ex as the person who makes sure packages are getting to their destinations on time. Because of his busy schedule and constant traveling, he doesn't get to spend much time with his girlfriend, Kelly (Helen Hunt). Even the Christmas holiday they're spending together with family is interrupted when Chuck has to fly to Malaysia. Chuck and Kelly exchange Christmas gifts in the car before Chuck gets on the Fed-Ex plane. Kelly gives him a pocket watch that's been in her family for generations with a photo of herself on the inside. Not just any photo, but Chuck's favorite photo of her. Chuck gives Kelly a pager, a journal, and hand towels. It's not until the last minute when he gives her a small wrapped box that is clearly an engagement ring and tells her she can open it when he gets back home. (And pretty much tell him her decision). As he walks to the plane, his last words to her (for awhile, anyway!) are "I'll be right back!" Uh, not quite!
The only other people onboard with Chuck are four pilots. Chuck is in the bathroom when the plane starts diving down and we will learn later in the movie that it is never resolved why the plane went down. There was a pretty nasty storm going on, so that most definitely didn't help matters! The most terrifying part of the crash is that Chuck, who is holding on for dear life in the back of the plane, can see the ocean getting closer and closer as the plane descends at a rapid speed. How he survived the impact, I'll never know (the pilots all seemingly died instantly), but the plane breaks apart and he manages to swim away. He is smart to think to grab the raft, but the cord gets caught on one of the plane parts and he has to swim down to untangle. Just keep in mind he's been underwater for a few minutes already. If that were me, my instincts would have been to just leave the raft because my brain would have been screaming at me to get to air. That is just the first of many reasons why I would never survive in a scenario like this! There is a scary moment where one of the plane's (still moving!) propellor is right behind him and if it doesn't kill him first, it most defintely is going to shred his raft. He starts paddling very fast, but the propellor explodes and blasts Chuck from his inflatable raft. At first, I thought it had gotten the raft, but he manages to get back on it and it's still in one piece, luckily! He has a very harsh ride on the raft with large waves crashing over him while the storm is still raging. The camera pans away so we can see just how vast the ocean is and how there is no land in sight. No land for Noland! Oh, I get it now!
He has washed up on an uninhibited island (which we will later learn was 600 miles south of the the Cook Islands) and his first priority is to get the hell off the island. He traces the word HELP in large letters in the sand only to have it washed away by the tide, then he uses logs to spell it out, but that is to no avail either.
There is a moment during the first few days of his strandedness when he sees a ships light in the very far distance during the night and gets his puny flashlight to signal SOS (which he sort of makes up on a whim). Does he really think anyone will be able to see that? He gets his raft and starts paddling out, but the waves are too powerful and they puncture the raft and he gets a nasty gash on his leg from some coral.
Packages from the downed Fed-Ex plane start floating ashore and instead of opening them right away which I thought he would do, he keeps them organized. I guess he is still optimistic that he is going to be rescued soon and will still be able to deliver the packages. He does start opening them a few days later, though, and a few items prove to be helpful. He uses the bubble wrap from the packages and laces of an ice skate to wrap around his gash. The blades of the ice skate help him open coconuts. We see him trying to open one before he has the skates and it is a chore. I have only seen coconuts with the round brown husk, but they are also covered by a green shell. I usually only get my coconut shredded, so it comes in a plastic bag! They just seem like a pain in the ass to to open, especially when you don't have any tools. He even breaks the rock he's hitting it with and only gets a teaspoon of coconut milk when he opens it because most of it spills out. He learns to create a funnel and use that to drink the liquid from the coconut. The blades also come in handy when he's sawing branches off of trees. There's a really ugly dress (brown and black...who would wear that thing, whoever it was for is lucky she never received it!), but it does have netting which comes in very handy when trying to catch fish. The tape from many video tapes also proves to be useful for later events. It is 1995 when the movie begins so we are in that transitional period of people still watching videos, but DVDs are just around the corner. I know it is 1995 because the body of one of the pilots washes onto shore. Chuck takes his flashlight and his shoes because he lost his in the crash. They don't fit him properly so he has to cut off the top so he has room for his toes. He buries the pilot (not sure where he got the shovel...) and puts a photo he finds in the pilot's wallet of him with his two sons in his shirt pocket. On a large rock wall he writes the pilot's name and the years of his birth and death.
And, of course, one of the packages he opens is a Wilson volleyball which was intended to be the birthday present for a young boy from his grandparents. We don't see the volleyball again until Chuck is trying to make fire. He's tried to eat fish and crabs, but since he has no fire to cook them with he has to eat them raw and he is disgusted by that. Now as we all know from watching Survivor, unless you have flint or your torch from Tribal Council, it is very difficult to start fire. There have been a couple people on the show who have started it by using their glasses, but Chuck appears to have 20/20 vision. While he is rubbing two sticks together, he gets a very nasty gash on his hand and in frustration he grabs the volleyball and throws it. The bloody handprint looks like a face and Chuck etches in the eyes, nose, and mouth and the rest is history. Haha, I found a meme of a scene of the movie with Tom Hanks and the volleyball and it said, "Still a better love story that Twilight." That made me laugh, because really, it's pretty much true! Also, Tom Hanks and Wilson were nominated for Best Duo for a MTV Movie Award (they lost to the ladies of Charlie's Angels, which doesn't even make sense since there's three of them, but whatever). Wilson got snubbed for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar!
After rinsing his hand in the ocean (and wouldn't that sting with the saltwater? He wasn't wincing in pain or anything) and wrapping his wound with the fabric of the ugly dress, he attempts to make fire again, this time with Wilson "watching" him. Chuck looks at the volleyball and says, "You wouldn't have a match on you, would you?" He finally manages to create fire and is extremely ecstatic. ("FIRE!!!") He is now able to cook his seafood delicacies and enjoy them without gagging.
He does some quick calculations (which is pretty impressive without having a calculator and comes to the conclusion that they're in a search area of 500,000 square miles which is an area twice the size of Texas. Basically he realizes he's f***ed!
Worrying about how to get off the island and making a fire has taken his mind off the tooth that has been giving him pain since even before he flew to Malaysia, but he never make an appointment with his dentist and now that he's not distracted anymore with how to find food or start a fire, the pain is the first thing in his mind and is getting more excruciating by the day. He uses the blade of one of the skates as a mirror to look at the tooth and, in a scene I remember the most from viewing it in the theaters mostly for how much it made me cringe, he uses a rock to knock the ice skate's blade toward his mouth and it knocks out his tooth. It also knocks Chuck out and he hits his head hard on the ground very close to the fire. That part was almost worse for me than the actual knocking out of the tooth, but I remember just cringing and covering my eyes during that whole sequence!
The movie has a time lapse and four years have gone by, now making it "present day" 2000. So he has basically missed out on all the current events that happened in the late '90s. That would be so weird to not know what's going on at all in the world. That would be like if someone had just been rescued from being stranded on an island since 2013 and they'd be like, "Wait, Donald Trump is the President now? How in God's name did that happen?" (That's what I would say!) And then I'd say (half-jokingly, of course!), "Take me back to the island!"
Chuck has lost a lot of weight and has a full grown beard and unruly long hair which has been lightened by the sun. They filmed the movie in two parts where Tom Hanks gained fifty pounds for the first half of the movie, then they took a year hiatus where he shed the weight and grew out his hair and beard and filmed the second part. He has now seemed to adjust to island life, catching fish with ease and maintaining a fire. I think the most difficult part of being in a situation like this would be the lack of social interaction. Even though I only go out with friends about four times a year, I still see people every day with work or going to the grocery store or a coffeehouse or just walking around my neighborhood. I think you're just used to having people around you every day. Wilson represents the only "person" he has and while working on a raft to escape, they have a "conversation". Wilson represents the part of Chuck that thinks it is too dangerous for him to leave and Chuck gets angry and tells Wilson he's rather risk his life on the ocean than stay on this s**thole island for the rest of his life and talking to a damn volleyball and kicks Wilson out of the small hole in the cave he has made home. Even though only a volleyball, Wilson still represents Chuck's only friend and Chuck feels bad the minute he tosses Wilson out and goes out to find him.
The doors from a portable toilet wash up on shore and Chuck uses them as sails / a windguard for his raft which he has fashioned together with logs tied together by the tape from the videotapes. When he has deemed the wind good for sailing, he secures Wilson to a post with the tape and tells him, "I'll do all the paddling. You just hang on!" With his sails he is able to get past the worst part of the ocean with all the twenty foot waves that crash down on him. However, during a nasty storm, he loses the makeshift sails.
During the film there are three instances when the viewer notices something before Chuck. The first is the ship's light in the distance during the first week he is marooned on the island. The viewer is aware of the barge that will eventually rescue Chuck before he is. And, before that moment, the viewer sees Wilson drop from his secured perch and into the ocean while Chuck is asleep on the raft, his back turned to the volleyball. When he awakes a few minutes later, he is scanning the water frantically and when he turns around, he sees the volleyball has floated several feet away. He starts swimming to retrieve his one and only companion, but as he gets further away from the raft (and Wilson is being carried even more further away from him by the waves), he knows he has to let Wilson go. Not gonna lie: this scene made me cry. I felt so bad for Chuck when he gets back on the raft and just starts crying and saying, "I'm sorry, Wilson!" I found this scene to be much more emotional than the eventual reunion he will have with Kelly. Like I mentioned earlier, I had forgotten the fate of Wilson, but I think this is the only way to continue the movie. You need this scene. Wilson is representing a part of his life he has to let go. It just wouldn't work if he still had Wilson when he's rescued and took him home with him. That might be a tad weird.
I don't know how long after that Chuck continues to float before he is rescued, but luckily he is because his raft is starting to fall apart and he is looking like he is knocking on death's doors. It takes four weeks for him to get back to his home in Tennessee. There he discovers Kelly has married another man (Chris Noth) and has a young daughter. Now, if you think about it, four years really isn't that long (unless you're stranded on an island!) so she seemed to move on pretty quickly despite telling Chuck he was her one true love and she always knew he was alive. Think about it: she had to meet the guy, then date him, then get engaged to him, then get married, then have a child and I'm pretty sure the kid is at least two...so yeah, she moved on pretty fast! Maybe if she was only engaged to the guy, then maybe that would have made more sense. I guess they just wanted to let the audience know for certain that they are never, ever getting back together since Kelly has a family now. All the time, Chuck has hanged onto the pocketwatch Kelly gave him and is able to return it to her since he thinks it should stay in her family.
Chuck's friends have a welcome back party for him and they serve crab legs! Seriously, the guy has been stranded on an island for four years with nothing to eat but fish and crustaceans and they think crab legs is the way to go? The movie ends with Chucks at a crossroads (and what a great metaphor because he is now at a crossroads in his own life) and a woman stops and tells him where each road leads and is up to him to decide where he's going to go.
This movie came out the same year Survivor premiered and I was reminded of that show while watching it. Can you imagine if Chuck Noland was on that show? I can just see him now in a confession: "These other people have no idea how to survive. They've never set foot on a tropical island. I was stranded on an island for FOUR YEARS. I can make fire without flint. I can catch fish without winning fishing gear." I can also see him getting irritated with the contestants whining about how hungry they are. "We've only been out here for three weeks and everyone is complaining about how "starving" they are! Ha! Try doing this for FOUR YEARS! And we just had a huge feast two days ago!" Oh, and if he gets hurt and the medical team try to take him out of the game, he would tell them, "When I was stranded on an island, I didn't have any doctors to fix me. I couldn't get medical treatment because of some sand in my eye or because I was dehydrated. I got a huge gash on my hand, a huge gash on my leg, I had to knock out a painful tooth with a rock myself. If I get an injury in this game, no way any doctor is going to tell me I have to leave the game." I can see Jeff Probst asking him about his experience on the island in comparison to playing the game at every single Tribal Council. As far as he would get in the game, I think he would make it past the merge because people would want him around because he has experience with the island life, but after that people would get rid of him because his "story" is way too good. If he made the final two (or three depending on which season he would play on!), he would win because people would want to award somebody who literally did survive on an island! Oh, and his luxury item? A volleyball, of course!