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A FedEx executive must transform himself physically and emotionally to survive a crash landing on a deserted island.
OSCAR NOMINEE for Best Actor (Hanks) and Best Sound Design
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When Cast Away first came out in the theaters in 2000, it was what you like the call the perfect timing film. The hit TV show of that year was the reality show SURVIVAL, a show about people competing on an island for the ultimate prize of $1 million dollars. People responded to this show because it was part teamwork, part individuality. Part man against man, part man again himself. Part socialism, part capitalism. It hit the heart of the emotional core of the North American TV watchers. And when Cast Away came out a few months later, with the biggest movie star at the time attached, this was a film that was bound to be a hit.
This is definitely an interesting film because it's not about PEOPLE landing on a desert island, which was as cliche as cliche gets, but about a PERSON landing on an island. So it's a similar concept in historical storytelling with a twist.
There are a few key things that we learn about our hero before he arrives on the island that are key:
1) He's your classic middle manager. A stable but out of shape Fed-Ex executive who is more comfortable in his work surroundings, no matter how much conflict there is, than his personal life. He's a man who doesn't know how to express himself that well. His good friend's wife is facing a battle with cancer and he doesn't know how to talk to him about it.
2) He can sail.
3) He's in love with his girlfriend, but doesn't really know how to tell her how much. We learn that these two are destined for each other and his relationship with her is very special.
So when he does land on the island, our hero has all of the key ingredients for a man vs man story. In order for him to survive, he must learn how to deal with his inner emotions and feelings almost as much as he needs to learn how to start a fire and catch fish to eat.
In many ways our hero has landed on this island because he didn't learn how to lead with his heart as his capitalistic job was more important to him. In the corporate world, a system is set up for you so you don't have to think emotionally all that much. This works out great for the company's but for an individual it can sometimes stump their inner growth. He's stranded on the island because he thought more about his job than his own life and in order to get off, he must understand what really matters to him.
And of course it helps that he also knows how to sail.
There is about an hour of time in Cast Away where there is only shots of Tom Hanks on the island. There isn't even a musical score. We are on that island with him as he learns how to cope and be with himself. With that, Hanks needs any sort of communication with something. So he creates a figure out of a volleyball that he calls 'Wilson', from one of the Fed-Ex packages that survived the plane crash with him. With Wilson, he is able to talk himself into situations and express his frustrations, concerns and angsts out loud.
Imagine being stuck on an island with no one else for 4-5 years. A situation like that can drive a man mad because we are conditioned to be with another person. So Hanks creates Wilson for necessity because he can't live without him.
This is also a film about new beginnings. The last shot of the film is very open-ended as he stands in the middle of a road with four possible choices to travel. Whatever road he choices will leave to a new adventure with new friends and possibly a new love. And quite simply, that's what life is all about.
When I was started my own life over again in 2002, I remembered a passage from a sports broadcaster named Joe Buck, who just passed away. When asked him about his success he responded that life was very complicated and very easy. "All you have to do it choose a path, keep going and soon enough you're gone"
And that's what Cast Away reminds me of. And sometimes it takes being alone for awhile to understand how important choices are. And if we don't make one, then we can be stuck on our own inner desert island.