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Cast Away is a 2000 American survival drama film directed and produced by Robert Zemeckis and starring Tom Hanks, Helen Hunt, and Nick Searcy. Hanks plays a FedEx troubleshooter stranded on an uninhabited island after his plane crashes in the South Pacific, and the plot focuses on his desperate attempts to survive and return home. Cast Away was released on December 22, 2000 by 20th Century Fox in North America and DreamWorks Pictures in its international markets.

Plot

In 1995, Chuck Noland, a systems analystexecutive, travels the world resolving productivity problems at FedEx depots. He lives with his girlfriend Kelly Frears in Memphis, Tennessee, but his workaholism often interferes with their relationship. During a family Christmas dinner, Chuck is summoned to resolve a work problem in Malaysia. The FedEx cargo plane he is on gets caught in a strong storm and comes crashing down into the Pacific Ocean. Chuck is the only one who survives and escapes with an inflatable life raft, though the raft's emergency locator transmitter is ripped off. The next day, he washes up on an uncharted and uninhabited island.

Over the next few days several FedEx packages also wash up ashore, as well as the corpse of one of the FedEx pilots, whom Chuck buries. He tries to signal a passing ship and escape in the damaged life raft, but the incoming surf tosses Chuck onto a coral reef, injuring his leg. He is able to find sufficient food, water, and shelter. He opens the FedEx packages, finding a number of potentially useful items, but leaves one package, with a pair of golden angel wings painted on it, unopened. While attempting to start a fire, Chuck cuts his hand. He furiously throws several objects from the packages, including a Wilson Sporting Goods volleyball, leaving a bloody imprint. After calming down, he draws a face into the smeared blood, names the ball Wilson, and begins talking to it. He continues to talk to it regularly during the rest of his time on the island.

Four years later, Chuck survives and has since taken shelter inside a cave. After a large section from a portable toilet enclosure washes up on the island, he builds a raft, using the plastic as a sail. Chuck successfully launches the raft that he has stocked with food, water, and the one unopened FedEx package. Although a storm threatens the raft's integrity, it proves resistant to the onslaught. One morning, as Chuck sleeps, Wilson falls off the raft and floats away. Chuck awakes and futilely attempts to rescue Wilson, but is left to grieve over Wilson's loss. Soon after, he is finally rescued by a passing cargo ship.

Upon returning to civilization, Chuck learns that he was declared dead by his family and friends; Kelly has since married and has a child. Chuck goes to Kelly's house and finally reunites with her. They reveal themselves to still be in love with each other, but both know that Kelly cannot abandon her family. She gives Chuck his old Jeep Cherokee, and they sadly part ways. Chuck drives to Texas to return the unopened FedEx package to its sender. Finding no one at home, he leaves the package at the door with a note saying that the package saved his life. He departs and stops at a remote crossroads. An attractive woman in a pickup truck stops and gives information about where each road leads. As she drives away, Chuck notices an angel wing graphic painted on the tailgate of her truck, identical to the one on the parcel. He looks down each road, trying to decide which way to go. Chuck then stares down the road the woman took, and smiles, knowing that is the road he will take.

Cast

  • Tom Hanks as Chuck Noland
  • Helen Hunt as Kelly Frears
  • Nick Searcy as Stan, a friend of Chuck
  • Chris Noth as Jerry Lovett, Kelly's husband
  • Lari White as Bettina Peterson, the woman who sent the unopened FedEx package
  • Vince Martin as Pilot Al, who is buried by Chuck on the island
  • Michael Forest as Pilot Jack
  • Jay Acovone as Pilot Peter
  • Garret Davis as Pilot Blaine


Production

Filming

The film was not shot consecutively. It began on January 18, 1999 before halting two months later. Filming resumed on April 3, 2000 and finished the following month. Hanks gained 50 pounds (23 kg) during pre-production, for the purpose of making his transformation more dramatic. After a majority of the film was shot, production was paused so that he could lose the weight and grow his hair and beard to look like he had been living on the island for years. Another four-month production halt preceded the filming of the final return scenes. During the year-long hiatus, Zemeckis used the same film crew to make another film, What Lies Beneath.

Cast Away was filmed on Monuriki, one of the Mamanuca Islands in Fiji. It is in a subgroup of the Mamanuca archipelago, which is sited off the coast of Viti Levu, Fiji's largest island. The island became a tourist attraction following the film's release. After Chuck's return, it is identified by Kelly as being "about 600 miles [970 km] south of the Cook Islands," but there is actually no land between the southernmost Cook Islands of Mangaia and Antarctica.

The film essentially begins and ends in the same location, on the Arrington Ranch in the Texas Panhandle south of the city of Canadian, Texas.

Music

The film's minimal score was composed and conducted by Alan Silvestri for which he won a Grammy Award in 2002. The film's soundtrack is most notable for its lack of score and creature sound effects (such as bird song or insect sounds) while Chuck is on the island, which is intended to reinforce the feeling of isolation. Cast Away contains no original musical score until Chuck escapes the island. However, there is a Russian choral piece heard near the start of the film that was not composed or even recorded by Silvestri, so it does not appear on the film's soundtrack list. It is a traditional Russian song written by Lev Knipper called "Oh, My Field" ("Polyushko, Polye") and it is available on various collections of Red Army hymns.

The official soundtrack CD is an anthology of musical pieces from all films up to that point directed by Zemeckis and scored by Silvestri. The only track from Cast Away itself is the theme from the end credits.

FedEx

FedEx provided access to their facilities (Memphis, Los Angeles, and Moscow) as well as airplanes, trucks, uniforms, and logistical support. A team of FedEx marketers oversaw production through more than two years of filming. FedEx CEO Fred Smith made an appearance as himself for the scene where Chuck is welcomed back, which was filmed on location at FedEx's home facilities in Memphis, Tennessee. The idea of a story based on a FedEx plane crashing gave the company "a heart attack at first," but the overall story was seen as positive. FedEx, which paid no money for product placement in the film, saw an increase in brand awareness in Asia and Europe following the film's release.

Reception

Box office

Cast Away opened in 2,774 theaters in North America and grossed $28.9 million (an average of $10,412 per theater) in its opening weekend. For the four-day Christmas long holiday weekend, it took in a total of $39.9 million. The film kept performing well and ended up earning $233.6 million domestically and $196 million internationally, for a total of $429.6 million, against its production budget of $90 million.

Critical response

On Rotten Tomatoes, Cast Away holds an approval rating of 89% based on 157 reviews, with an average rating of 7.40/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Flawed but fascinating, Cast Away offers an intelligent script, some of Robert Zemeckis' most mature directing, and a showcase performance from Tom Hanks." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 73 out of 100 based on reviews from 32 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews." Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale.

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three stars out of four. In his review, he praised Hanks for doing "a superb job of carrying Cast Away all by himself for about two-thirds of its running time" by "never straining for effect, always persuasive even in this unlikely situation, winning our sympathy with his eyes and his body language when there's no one else on the screen." However, he also mentioned how he felt that the film is "a strong and simple story surrounded by needless complications, and flawed by a last act that disappoints us and then ends on a note of forced whimsy."

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