Cast Away (2000)
Directed by Robert Zemeckis (x3)
Starring Tom Hanks (x6), Helen Hunt, Nick Searcy, Chris Noth, Jenifer Lewis, Lari White
Tom Hanks’ shining hour, and to date his last Academy Award nomination (?!), Cast Away takes the most basic premise in the history of storytelling – stranded on a desert island – and makes it riveting, fascinating, tense business. Also, if you sit in the front few rows of the movie theater during it, the film is also terrifically nauseating. Pro tip! I wasn’t straight up vomiting (that’s only happened once from an in-theater movie, you guys), but I sure missed a bunch of the film on first viewing.
But this movie benefited from that insidious cable TV strategy of running it all hours of the day and night for years to come, and me flipping around, discovering Hanks spearing fish and whatnot, and getting sucked in. #317 Blue Chips is on this list for this same reason – in theaters, I was like “It’s fine.” Then, you see it another dozen times when there’s nothing better to watch and boom! All-time favorite! There’s been a lot of talk in recent years about a Space Jam 2 (has that come to pass yet?), but no chatter regarding the return of Shaq’s Neon Boudeaux in Blue Chips 2: Slam Dunk! For shame!
This has nothing to do with Cast Away. As great as Hanks was in his pair of early ’90s Oscar winning flicks – Philadelphia and Forrest Gump – for my money this is his best performance. Not only does he have the stunning physical transformation, but he’s the only person on screen for the entire middle of the film. He makes talking to himself believable and entertaining – did you ever hear someone blathering on to themselves when they thought no one was listening? That shit isn’t entertaining at all! It’s half-formed madness! Days when I work from home and the wife isn’t here, I don’t talk much, but it’s mostly exclamations. “What the fuck is this now?” “Are you kidding me?” “Don’t you go trusting that bitch, Eric! She was just in bed with Xander!*”
(*if I’m watching Days of Our Lives on lunch)
The movie sucks the audience in as Hanks’ regular guy Chuck has no idea how to survive on this island and rapidly figures things out, including the most skin-crawling in-cave tooth extraction you’ll ever see. But everyone watching this movie had to evaluate whether they stacked up with Chuck when it came to island living. Me? I think my general lack of “roughing it” all these years would make it tough to survive, but who knows? When desperate enough, I could probably learn to spear fish from twenty yards away. Plus, look at the glorious tan he got!
It goes without saying that there is only one logical MVP for this movie. Considering the lack of co-stars – and that I’m never really giving MVP to the person doing the most work (or who in this case would be doing all the work), clearly the most valuable projectile is Wilson. Imagine this movie without Wilson – Hanks is just shouting at the sea and cursing himself and yelling at cave drawings, and that’s crazy sad. Sure, his relationship with Wilson gets raw, and (spoiler alert) when he loses the volleyball on the open sea, it’s legitimately heartbreaking – one of the tougher inanimate object deaths in all of film. So no joke, I feel like the two keys to this movie being as great and entertaining as it is are Hanks’ brilliant performance and the very existence of Wilson.
The hiatus in filming while Hanks lost his island weight was so long that Robert Zemeckis filmed What Lies Beneath in the interim – and I remember that being decent too, but it is not one of the director’s three films on the list so far – the others being #344 Back to the Future Part II and #375 Romancing the Stone. Hanks’ second live-action performance joins his four voice over roles to propel him to the Six-Timers (#181 A League of Their Own, also Toy Storys #137 I, #240 II, #152 III, and #234 The Simpsons Movie). Spotlight!