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Movie Review

Cast Away

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense action sequences and some disturbing images

Reviewed by: Brett Willis

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teen to Adult
2 hr. 23 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
Tom Hanks in “Cast Away”
Featuring: Tom Hanks, Helen Hunt, Valerie Wildman, Geoffrey Blake, Jennifer Lewis
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Producer: Joan Bradshaw, Jack Rapke, Robert Zemeckis, Steve Starkey, Tom Hanks
Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox

I believe this is one of the best films of its type ever made; of course, that type is a pretty rare one. When someone is “cast away” and isolated from civilization for an extended period, there are the dual problems of “What happens if I don’t get back?” and “What happens if I do?” “Cast Away” provides good food for thought in a compelling story.

Tom Hanks and Helen Hunt in “Cast Away”

Chuck Noland (Tom Hanks) is a high-energy FedEx troubleshooter who travels the world at a moment’s notice, helping employees of foreign FedEx centers to understand that their business lives and dies by the clock. Chuck makes time for girlfriend Kelly Frears (Helen Hunt) out of the leftovers. But when a FedEx plane crashes in the South Pacific and he’s the only survivor, Chuck’s frantic lifestyle is replaced by one that’s very slow-paced and yet is frantic in a different way. Cast on an uninhabited island, Chuck must use all his skills and wits to satisfy his basic human needs.

There are the deaths of the rest of the plane’s inhabitants (not directly shown); several scenes of blood; and sequences which are “gross” but which accurately depict what a castaway must do to survive (let’s just say it involves major changes in diet and lifestyle). Chuck wears a loincloth, but it’s no briefer than Hanks’ underwear in “Turner and Hooch”. Profanity is present, but very sparse. For maximum effect, the film should be seen with as little prior knowledge of the story as possible. But as a courtesy to parents, here are two pieces of information that give away plot elements. One: there’s a time that Chuck considers suicide, but decides against it (we don’t see this directly, but learn about it later). Two: Chuck survives, gets back to civilization and finds that Kelly is married and a mother. Chuck and Kelly are still in love, and it takes them a little while and a few kisses to make up their minds, but eventually they do the right thing.

The production values are very high and the mood-setting is excellent. During his time alone, Chuck talks occasionally to an inanimate friend; most of his experiences are shown (or implied) rather than described. There’s no voiceover and very little music. The drama is a masterpiece of understatement. For realism’s sake, filming was suspended for a year while Hanks lost about 50 pounds; then the shoot resumed, starting at the latter part of the castaway period.

Although there are multiple crises in this story (there’s a minor subplot about the wife of one of Chuck’s coworkers dying of cancer), there are no expressions of faith by Chuck or anyone else. The best the characters have to offer each other is their own help and sympathy. That’s good, but it’s not enough. Christian believers have the assurance that the trials and tests in our lives will never be greater than we can bear (I Cor 10:13), and that God Himself is our refuge and strength (Ps 46:1).

Viewer Comments
What keeps “Cast Away” from being a great movie is the absence of any expression of religious faith. This movie had a perfect plot and/or setting in which to develope a persons searching for God and reliance on him in difficult circumstances. Even though it seems at times that the United States is becoming increasingly Godless, I still feel that the average American who would have been thrust into this cast away situation, would have come away from this experience with some sort of spiritual growth, even if they had been drifting away from God at the time of the accident. I certainly hope that creating an inanimate object with suggestions of idol worship, is not what today’s average American would do in these circumstances. The moral ratings offered were extremely, very, and/or somewhat OFFENSIVE. With “Cast Away”, I think choices of extremely, very, and/or somewhat DISAPPOINTING would have been more appropriate. My Ratings: [Average / 4]
—Dave Storhaug, age 55
A lot of people have complained about the ending of this movie, but to me it was the icing on the cake. Tom Hanks may have been the human star of the movie, but the real star was the Fedex box with “the symbol” on it. I’m not sure what the intentions of Hanks, the writer or Zemekus was, but the symbols to me was a symbol for God and his sovereign leading in our lifes. It was a pair of golden wings with three circles around them. The angel wings remind me of the Ark of the Covenant and the rings seem to symbolize the Trinity even if that was not the intent. A lot of reviews mention that the character did not pray or acknowledge God, but we must also remember that this is not a “Christian” movie. Whatever the main character did with his girlfriend is beside the point it was how he responded to the her when he returned that mattered. His response sets a good example for people in tempting situations, but it was revealed that if you do the right thing (not necessarily what feels right) then you may have a reward just around the corner that is more than you could have imagined. I didn’t like the “GD” expletive and it could have been left out while still expressing the same anger. My Ratings: [Excellent / 5]
—Patrick, age 34
Long in the island setting, but understand that the viewer had to be put in the mood for what it would be like to be stranded. This movie makes a person think about the decisions and the important items in your life. My Ratings: [Excellent / 4½]
—Craig L. Molm, age 47
Being a pastor, I usually shy away from movies, however, this one had a draw for me personally. Children under the age of 13 should only see this film if they are nurtured and have an understanding that certain words are not appropriate in any situation. However, let me get to the film. Other than this one scene of language and the implied “live in” arrangement of Kelly and Chuck, the film is incredible. The message is so strong if we are willing to listen to what it says. In the scene before he departs on his fateful flight, he gives Kelly a gift and asks her to keep it until New Year’s Eve. He doesn’t come home for New Year’s Eve. Later in the film, after 4 years, the moment he thought he could put off was gone, never to be recovered. God tells us life is like that as well. We are to live our lives as if tomorrow may not come. Because we do not know what tomorrow may bring. In another scene, he has made the decision to escape the place of safety, the is land, and set out regardless of the cost. God calls us to this kind of life. Not to sit safely in our own personal island, just surviving. He desires for us to step out in faith and assurance that He will see us through. My deepest heartache though is the reality of the words I heard when leaving the theater. Many of the people I heard did not catch the deeper meaning of all of the messages of the film. The reality is, I am afraid our society has become the MTV generation where Beavis and Butthead make more sense to them than the depths of the human experience and how God, regardless of the wind and waves that life brings, if we are willing to step out in faith and risk it, He will bring us to new opportunities and change. Though this movie does not have the typical “Hollywood” ending, it is a ending where virtue, morality, and doing what is right even when it is not what “we” want shines forth. Go to this film and be open to the reflections of life that God can show you through it. My Ratings: [Better than Average / 4½]
—Rev. Ken Duke, age 44
If you’re a Tom Hanks fan this is a movie for you. The language is fairly mild (I really wish they wouldn’t take God’s name in vain) except for a few expletives. …I was bothered by the lack of any spiritual message. God was never questioned, prayed to, or given any kind of thanks. The movie is a little slow perhaps and as Tom returns to civilization he finds himself a cast away of a different sort. My Ratings: [Better than Average / 4]
—Bryan Tilbrook, age 44
This is not Gilligan’s Island. It is a treat for those who love great movies. Could this be another Oscar winner for Tom Hanks? Easily. Could this be another Oscar for Helen Hunt? No way. Hanks rules the screen during his island time. His acting prowess is seen whether he has dialogue or not. Hunt, admittedly, is not given much to work with, but she doesn’t seem to do much with what she has. The PG-13 rating is likely due to the intensity of the subject matter and the injuries we see Hanks sustain. There are only a few swear words uttered under extreme frustration. It’s long. It’s character driven. If you like movies like that, this one does it better than most. My Ratings: [Better than Average / 5]
—John Bray, age 50
This film was great! I loved every moment of it! The ending will leave you wondering. Tom Hanks gave a great performance, as did the rest of the cast. This film did not contain much dialogue, so Tom doesn’t say much for at least the first hour of the movie: he IS on a secluded island with no one to talk to, but a volleyball. This movie was wonderful, and it will be a sure-fire Oscar contender this year, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Tom took home another golden statuette for this one. This film is not for young children, however. There are some pretty tense moments that could give them nightmares, preferably the plane crash scene. There were only a couple instances of profanity (one GD) but that was all. Great film! Highly recommended. I think I will see this one again! My Ratings: [Excellent / 5]
—Adam, age 18
Wow, this was one of the best movies I have seen in a while! For a PG-13 movie I thought that there was not a lot of profanities at all. I think they only said the D*** four times, S*** like three time and the Lord name like five. Most if not all PG-13 has the F-word in it at least once and this did not! One thing I did not like is it kind of made it sound like Tom Hanks and his G/f had sex before they got married! Not that they showed you anything, but they left you believing that! Overall I think it was a great movie for teens and up! My Ratings: [Better than Average / 4½]
—John, age 17
Cast Away was one of the better movies I have seen in quite a while. Though I was a little disappointed in the ending, it still was an excellent movie, and I would definitely go see it again. My Ratings: [Good / 4]
—Jason, age 15
Excellent acting, Beautiful scenery, and it made you feel as though you were there. Very funny. My Ratings: [Average / 4½]
—Sue, age 40
My husband and I went and loved Cast Away. On the objectionable side, there were two or three expletives, and a scene with Hanks on a raft wearing a loincloth that wasn’t doing its job covering one side of his behind. This scene is an extremely emotional one; I am very picky and I didn’t register right off. On the plus side: I left feeling like had not been truly grateful a day in my life. The movie shows you just how much we take for granted in life, from running water to inane everyday conversation. It has humorous segments as well as Kleenex moments. It is a great movie. Take your mature teens; there were quite a few in the audience who were not so and obviously did not get the gravity of the plot. My Ratings: [Better than Average / 4½]
—K. and M. McCluney, age 39, 38
I thought the film was quite good. It sure made me think of what I would do if I were to find myself in that situation. At the speed the world is going right now (eating while driving and talking on the cell phone at the same time) not mentioning road rage, a lot of people will find this movie “slow”. As a Christian, I liked the part where Chuck was crying on the raft. He later said that he had control over nothing. Isn’t that the truth? It reminded me of a person who lets go of their own efforts and put their faith in Christ. Jesus said, “Without Me, you can do nothing.” Good movie! My Ratings: [Better than Average / 3]
—Jacques “Jerry” Lemieux, age 48
Movie Critics
…The most disappointing part of the movie, is that it ends on an existential fatalistic note…
—Dr. Ted Baehr, Movieguide
…Audiences should enjoy this story about the human will to survive…
—Preview Family Movie and TV Review
…A few scatological references and mild obscenities, several religious profanities…