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Tom Hanks, whether you like him or not, is without a doubt one of the most respected and demanded actors in Hollywood at the moment. Over the years he has picked up a pretty respectable run of successful films, including ‘The Green Mile’, ‘Saving Private Ryan’ and ‘Forrest Gump’. The latter of those was directed by Robert Zemeckis, and through the partnership with Tom Hanks, ‘Forest Gump’ picked up several Oscar nominations and awards. Castaway saw the return of the Hanks/Zemeckis partnership, and perhaps unsurprisingly, again achieved a number of Academy nominations, including Best Actor for Tom Hanks. Despite Hanks losing out to Russell Crowe (Gladiator), his performance was critically acclaimed , so as soon as the DVD hit the shops I was sure to splash out on this 2 disk set.

Cast Away

Castaway doesn’t exactly have a massive cast for a big budget film such as this. It stars Tom Hanks…. a bit more Tom Hanks…with a large amount of Tom Hanks thrown in for good measure! Backing up the large dose of Hanks is the only other big name on the cast list, Helen Hunt (What Women Want) who doesn’t really appear much until the latter part of the film.

Hanks plays Chuck Noland, a FedEx systems engineer who among other things travels the world trying to improve the turnaround rate on FedEx packages. He’s a pretty ordinary guy, with a loving girlfriend, a nice home, and despite his hectic schedule he seems pretty content with his life. Because of his job, Chuck does have to make a fair bit of airtime, so when he bids farewell to his girlfriend for a couple of days at Christmas, he promises to be back in time for New Years Eve. As you would expect from the films title, things don’t exactly go according to plan. Following a truly spectacular and realistic plane crash, that really does have to be seen to be believed, Noland, the sole survivor of the crash is washed up upon a small desert island. From here on in, the film focuses on his physical and emotional fight for survival.

For a start, you will have noticed that I havent told you too much about the films story. That is mainly because I really don’t want to spoil the film for you, unlike the marketing for the film has for many. Why the studios chose to give away the entire film plot within a couple of minutes of trailer is beyond me.

Cast Away
Despite the setback of spoilers which I knew about before seeing the film, I still thoroughly enjoyed this movie. The film is pretty well paced and structured, and despite the fact that a large proportion of the film involves Tom Hanks alone on the island, I was never bored once. I don’t think that many other Hollywood actors would have been able to hold my attention for an hour, without any other character interaction. Hanks however, has a quality about him that you can associate with, which was apparent not only in this film, but also in ‘Forrest Gump’. The main issue with a film such as this, is always going to be lack of dialogue. Luckily, this is overcome using the pretty ingenious introduction of Wilson…a volley ball! Wilson, the brand name of the ball becomes Chucks only friend on the Island, he paints a face on it, takes it with him wherever he goes, and when times are hard, talks about his problems with the ball. Never before have I become so emotionally attached to a piece of rubber, again, this is mainly down to the quality, and believability of Hank’s acting.

The other parts of the movie involving Helen Hunt as Hanks long time girlfriend are also more than acceptable. Despite Castaway being quite a romantic film in parts, it never stepped over into the realms of cheesy sentimentality. The pacing throughout these scenes is again just right, giving enough background of Chucks life before the impending disaster. The chemistry between Hanks and Hunt is quite obvious onscreen, and throughout the film it is blatantly obvious the torment that Chuck is going through from being without his long term love.

I don’t have many gripes with this movie, though perhaps my main one is down to the editing of the film. On quite a few occasions I found myself cringing at the quality of some of the cuts at the end of each scene, and into the next. This mainly took place on the Island scenes, as on a number of occasions the sound would just cut out. Whether this is what the director intended or not is another question, though I personally  found it a little sloppy.

Overall though, this film provides some fascinating entertainment, though is perhaps a tad overlong at 2hours 20minutes. The special effects are stunning, the story is pretty solid, and the acting throughout is nothing short of amazing. All in all, a great film.

Cast Away

DVD is really proving that it is the future of home entertainment by the day. The quality on this Anamorphic 1.85:1 picture is outstanding, and at no point through the film did I notice any picture damage, or any imperfections. The quality of this transfer becomes even more apparent during the island scenes, with the vibrant blue colours of the ocean and the sky leaping out at you. Please note, that the packaging wrongly states that the disc has an aspect ratio of '2.35:1', it is infact as already stated '1.85:1'. Interestingly, all the ‘night’ scenes throughout the film were actually originally filmed during the day, and then are put through various filters in post production to give the illusion of the night. Because of this, the quality remains extremely clear and sharp throughout the night time scenes also.

Sound is another high point of this 2 disk release, unfortunately my sound setup is far from capable, and therefore I cannot experience the full thrills of the DTS track. The sound does seem extremely efficient on Cast Away, though there was not as much bass during the plane crash as I would have imagined. This again, maybe down to my poor sound setup. Still, despite this, the soundtrack was perfectly acceptable for me.

This is a 2 disk set, so as you can imagine, you get quite a lot for your money. Most of the extras are of a surprisingly high quality, especially given the reasonably short space of time that it has taken 20th Century Fox to release this disc.

First off, on Disc 1 we have a Commentary by Robert Zemeckis and some of the Cast Away crew. Unfortunately this isn’t a commentary that has been recorded live, instead it is a mix mash of various soundbytes from interviews etc that has been added to the appropriate sections of the film. Despite that, this commentary is quite informative, though your not going to be getting any idle chatter that many people, including me like.

Cast Away
The Second Disc comes with a whole host of features. Firstly, there are a number of small ‘Special Effects Vignettes’. These basically take a look at several of the films CGI intensive scenes, including the Plane Crash. You are given some production footage of the scenes in various states of progress, commentated by the Special Effects supervisors. These are a nice addition, and although short give you a basic idea of how things are built up from scratch. I also learned that many CGI effects were used when I wouldn’t have expected them to be in the least.

‘The Charlie Rose Show – Interview with Tom Hanks’ runs to roughly 40minutes and is a pretty thorough interview with Hanks that focuses primarily on Castaway, with a slight glimpse at some of his other work including ‘Saving Private Ryan’. This interview is pretty interesting, though after 30minutes I did become a little bored and decided to turn it off. This is probably down to my lack of sleep the previous night more than anything!

Next up, we have a series of documentaries including ‘Wilson: The Life & Death of a Hollywood Extra’, ‘The Island’, ‘Surviving as a Castaway’ and finally a ‘Making Of’ documentary. These documentaries are all reasonably interesting, and are a welcome addition to the disc. I particularly enjoyed the Making Of documentary, as it focuses on the film in much more depth than your average DVD documentary. It includes interviews with the director, Tom Hanks and the rest of the crew, and gives a good insight into the immense amount of work and effort taken. Also included on the disc are Storyboard to Film Comparisons which take various scenes from the movie, and are then compared to the storyboard equivalent. This is all displayed clearly on screen, with the storyboard picture taking up the screen for the most part, with a small picture in the bottom right dedicated to displaying the movie playback.

Finally we have the traditional sprinklings of Trailers and TV Spots. Cast Away gives us 2 theatrical trailers, all played in full screen mode, as well as several different TV Spots, also played in full screen mode. It was quite interesting watching the TV Spots of how they marketed the film before it came out, and after it was released when the awards nominations etc started coming through.

Cast Away

All in all, this is another great 2 disc release, and one that 20th Century fox should be very proud of. The film is a fascinating look into the life of a pretty typical guy, and what spectacular circumstances can do to him. Theres no doubt about it, that the studios took a reasonably large gamble with a storyline such as this, as it relies heavily on the main man. It’s a gamble that I’m glad they took however, and as such the movie has been awarded with an even better release on DVD.