Sunday, June 21, 2009

CAST AWAY - Blu-Ray (20th Century-Fox 2000) Fox Home Video

Robert Zemeckis’ Cast Away (2000) presents its audience with the answer to that old clichéd question; ‘what would you do if you were stranded on a desert island?’ Written by William Broyles Jr. the film tells the story of Chuck Noland (Tom Hanks); a harried executive for FedEx shipping who is so lost in his micromanagement of time down to the nanosecond he has completely forgotten that the true measure of life is in the experience of living it.

Chuck is engaged to Kelly Frears (Helen Hunt) – the love of his life. After a brief Christmas interlude and family get-together, Chuck is called away at the last minute to accompany a special shipment. Unfortunately for Chuck and the rest of the crew, the plane flies into rough weather somewhere in the remote tropics, losing pressure and plummeting into the stormy ocean below.

Chuck is the only survivor and, after a harrowing night of being tossed about the infinite blackness, discovers that he has washed ashore on a remote island with no signs of life. At first, Chuck believes it is only a matter of time before FedEx sends out an expedition to search for the wreckage. However, as days roll into months – then years – Chuck slowly comes to the realization that he is all alone in the world and will have to transform himself both physically and mentally in order to survive.

Recovering various packages that wash ashore from the downed plane, Chuck creates a refuge from the elements. He learns to hunt and fish. Four long years pass. Finally, Chuck realizes that he can no longer live alone on this tropical hideaway. No one is coming for him. His only salvation will be the one he makes for himself.

Building a raft, Chuck manages to break the tides surrounding the island. He is hurled and tossed about the sea, almost dying before being discovered by a freighter. The news of Chuck’s survival is momentous to say the least, but also semi-tragic as Chuck soon learns that during his absence Kelly has married dentist, Jerry Lovett (Chris Noth) instead.

After Jerry breaks the news to Chuck at the airport, Chuck and Kelly are reunited in the pouring rain where she confesses to him that he has always been the love of her life. Chuck decides to make one final delivery for FedEx – to a remote farm where a female artist specializes in iron sculptures. And therein lies the crossroads of Chuck’s destiny; to return to his career or remain on the farm with the woman who we are led to believe could be his future romance.

In our age of reality based Survivor TV, Cast Away is not quite the exhilarating entertainment we might expect. The opening sequence plays like an extended commercial, extolling the proficiency of FedEx shipping. The initial scenes with Kelly and Chuck lack any palpable chemistry between Helen Hunt and Tom Hanks to make their characters’ burgeoning romance, sudden separation and later reunion overwhelmingly tragic and/or meaningful.
Once Hanks gets to the island time stands still – or rather – crawls along at an excruciatingly slow pace for the rest of us. Yes, there are sparks of ingenuity to the screenplay – but overall the conflict between man and the elements seems curiously deemphasized, except for a few brief encounters with bad weather. In the final analysis, Cast Away is a film that tosses more into the wind than is returned.

Alan Silvestri’s score immeasurably elevates what is essentially a turgid tale of lost opportunities, often keeping the whole enterprise afloat on waves of introspective background music when all else – including the script and Hanks’ performance -fails. In many reviews of this film, much has been made of the ‘relationship’ between Chuck and ‘Wilson’ – the volleyball that Chuck re-christens as his only friend and companion on the island.

Fox Home Video’s Blu-Ray incarnation easily bests its standard DVD presentation though once again Fox has chosen to release a rather bare bones offering instead of the jam packed 2-disc SE it gave us on standard disc. Colors are rich, vibrant and beautifully realized. Reds are red. Blacks are deep and solid. Contrast levels are subtly realized. The texture of island foliage is breathtakingly vivid. The audio has been remixed to 5.1 lossless audio. Extras have been pared down to Zemeckis’ audio commentary and trivia track and the film’s theatrical trailer presented in HD. For shame!

FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)
3

VIDEO/AUDIO
4.5

EXTRAS
2

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