Cast Away: A review

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Summers, I have found, are always life changing. It might be an internship you take, that person you meet, the books you read or the movies you watch. This summer, I snuggled in bed with some ice cream and allowed myself the pleasure of watching one of my favorite movies- Cast Away, for the second time and I was as engrossed in it as the first time writes BDR member Ahla Matra. Here’s what she had to say about the movie..

For those of you who haven’t watched it yet (WHY?!), Cast Away, directed by Robert Zemeckis, is an exploration of the human state when all that is familiar to you now, is taken away from you. For a major part of the movie, its just you and Chuck Noland, played by Tom Hanks, struggling to stay alive and escape the island he’s been marooned on after surviving a plane crash. The movie opens with shots of Noland, a FedEx worker fixing a broken clock at their office in Russia yelling how time rules over us without mercy. You soon realize that Noland is an unforgiving time keeper and a relentless worker who barely finds time to spend with his girlfriend, Kelly (played by Helen Hunt), who he loves passionately. After promising Kelly that he would ‘be right back’ by New year’s Eve, Noland’s gets on a FedEx flight which crashes dramatically into the Pacific Ocean after an on board explosion. He survives the crash and washes up on a beautiful island by dawn. Here is where the movie really picks up for me. He walks around the island for a quite a bit hoping to find other survivors. By dusk he gives up and settles down with his only possessions now being the floatation device that saved him, a few fedx packages that also washed up on the island shore and the clothes he was wearing. Hanks successfully delivers his character’s helplessness as he watches the sun set, with nothing to do but wait for help. As the night falls on this strange island, the audience shares Noland’s gripping fear of every unfamiliar movement and noise in the dark.

Here begins the character’s journey of learning and unlearning in his struggle to survive. One of the most poignant moments in the movie is when after days of rubbing sticks together and failing, Noland finally creates fire. One quickly identifies with his pride in having created something as he screams to the seas with exhilaration, “I, have made fire.”As a student of psychology I couldn’t help but notice how Noland moved steadily through the hierarchy of needs, striving to fulfill one physiological need after the other and then going on to create ‘Wilson’ (a football from one of the Fedx packages) for companionship and relatedness. One also sees human creativity in action when Noland makes use of all of the things in the FedEx packages to create tools- for instance using the blades off of ice skates to cut through the coconuts and to extract his aching tooth. Being the man of time that he is, Noland marks months and seasons on cave walls, refusing to commit the sin of losing track of time. The four year flash forward on the island shows Noland completely transformed: standing tall on a rock with a spear in hand to trap fish, his body skinny and tanned, with flowing hair and beard; man in his primitive state.

If you have atleast watched the trailer for this movie, you will know that Chuck Noland finally gets off the island with the help of a raft he created using logs of wood and a portion of an on board lavatory door that washed up on the island. He is spotted on his raft by a gigantic tanker that takes him aboard. Back home, he is welcomed with awe and admiration. One of my favorite scenes in the movie is when Chuck looks at the table laden with all kinds of food and finds a lighter that produces flame at the flick of a switch. One’s thought automatically wanders back to the island, where it took him days of rubbing dry sticks to together to create a spark and I cant help but realize how far we have gotten as a civilization and how far we will probably go.

The reality and the intense presentness of death is something anyone who has watched/will watch this movie, I’m sure, will take away from it. This movie is brutal and painful as it strips us of all the human excesses we have accumulated over the years. It breaks down every complex behavior and gives us an honest and scary flashback to where we come from. When I imagine myself on that island I also sometimes wonder whether the resilience and relentlessness was something unique to Noland or plainly a human requisite for survival.

Image courtesy: http://www.impawards.com

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