Cast Away DVD

A funny and telling thing happened while watching “Cast Away” the other day. There were a couple of instances where Tom Hanks’ character, a FedEx systems engineer named Chuck Noland, becomes injured in the water and starts to bleed. Immediately everyone around me tensed up and collectively muttered “Oh no, sharks.”

It’s amazing how much film has influenced the way people view real life. cast_away
Thanks to “Jaws” and all the fin flicks that followed, audiences have come to believe that every time someone bleeds in the ocean, a shark will magically appear. It’s a cliche, best left suited to pulpy films like “The Beach” with Leonardo DiCaprio. Sharks are usually a suspense device used when the filmmakers don’t trust their story and characters enough.

“Cast Away” is different. The filmmakers’ trust us, even respect us, and never go for the obvious. There isn’t a shark to be found in “Cast Away.” Nothing magically happens in this film. Everything is earned. “Cast Away” is smart, and funny, and ultimately amazing.

It features a towering performance from Hanks, who has never been better. He delivers a performance filled with courage, wonder and complete conviction. There isn’t a dishonest emotion in his delivery. You believe in his character, and share in his adventure and disappointment.

Like most people who work in high-pressure jobs, time is money to Chuck Noland. At FedEx, it is Noland’s job to make sure that everyone is working at their peak so that the packages get delivered on time. When we first meet Noland, he’s rallying a group of Russian employees, convincing them that every minute they waste is a minute lost forever.

Noland’s life is as exact as the second hand on a clock, a fact not lost on those who share his world. They admire his drive, but wish he would occasionally stop and smell the roses. Especially fiancee Kelly Frears, an understanding undergraduate who finds it hard to stay mad at Noland, even when he has to interrupt Christmas dinner to babysit a plane to South America.

Time catches up with Noland when the plane crashes into the ocean, killing the crew and sending him spiraling into the churning sea, eventually washing up on a deserted island. Relying on his wits and instinct, Noland creates a makeshift, temporary home. As the days turn into months, his hopes of being rescued vanish.

Writer William Broyles does a remarkable job of making all of this matter. He avoids the pathos and melodrama of “The Blue Lagoon.” What he delivers is a detailed road map that takes us on a journey filled with real life observations and reactions. His observations are so precise that it allows director Robert Zemeckis the opportunity to use cinematic shortcuts without sacrificing the integrity of the story.

Once Hanks firmly establishes Noland’s survival instincts, we leap four years into the future. The brilliance of Broyles’ script and the film in general is that we don’t need to see Noland go through the motions for four years. We know he will adapt, and indeed the next time we see him he looks like a seasoned survivor. His hair is longer, he’s 50 pounds leaner, and resembles a modern day Robinson Crusoe.

A lot has been written about how Hanks lost the weight for the film’s third act, and indeed the physical transformation is remarkable. Hanks doesn’t stop there. He not only looks like a different man, he acts like a different man. His eyes show us someone who has lived through four difficult years. We believe that this man has changed, that he has gone through a personal metamorphosis.

The sincerity of Hanks’ performance makes everything he says and does matter. Hanks hardly speaks during the film’s second act, yet his action say more than words ever could. There’s real joy when he learns how to make fire, and honest sympathy for his only companion, a volleyball named Wilson. It’s a testament to Hanks strength as an actor that the bond between Noland and Wilson is not only believable, but vital.

Zemeckis captures all of the wonder and beauty with a meticulous eye. There isn’t one wasted frame in the film. It’s truly amazing how Zemeckis is capable of making epic entertainment that feels intimate. He takes us places and shows us things that we have never seen before.

I truly respect the director for not making this a film of convenience. Noland doesn’t wash up on some lost paradise with running streams and wildlife. He washes up on a pimple of an island. He doesn’t become master of his domain. He’s forced to adapt.

Zemeckis is blessed to have “Forrest Gump” cinematographer Don Burgess behind the camera. The images are both beautiful and haunting. Ken Ralston’s visual effects and Arthur Schmidt’s editing are seamless, while Alan Silvestri’s score is majestic and touching.

Filled with memorable images, true adventure and a Oscar-worthy performance by Tom Hanks, “Cast Away” is a modern day classic. It will endure over the years because it is honest.


VISION: 20/20

check.gif (406 bytes) 1.85:1 Widescreen

check.gif (406 bytes) 16:9 Enhanced

Dynamic, sharp images with deep, true colors, outstanding flesh tones and perfect blacks. The images are truly amazing, with crystal clear definition and attention to detail. Not one iota of digital artifacts, noise or bleeding. Colors are perfectly rendered, while the blues and greens are smashing. The day for night shots look remarkable, with incredible depth of field. A pristine negative allows for flawless whites, while blacks and shadows are industrial strength. Even hard to peg elements (clouds, rain, water) hold up without a struggle.

HEARING: Excellent

check.gif (406 bytes) DTS ES English

check.gif (406 bytes) Dolby Digital EX English

check.gif (406 bytes) 2.0 Dolby Digital Surround English & French

The DVD offers a collection of sound choices, and each one delivers the goods, depending on the set-up you have. To fully enjoy the sound fields, you will need to close your windows and doors. You will want to crank up this puppy, allowing yourself to be swept up into the perfect mix. The front sound field is excellent, with a strong dialogue mix and honest left-to-right stereo separation. Surround effects are stunning, with true front-to-rear spatial separation and rear speaker action that complete engulfs you in the film. Basses are powerful and always present, especially during the plane crash and storm sequence. Middle and high ends purr with perfection. Ambient noise is realistic to the point of being distracting (that darn rain), while musical cues are powerful.

ORAL: Good

check.gif (406 bytes) Closed Captions in English for the Hard of Hearing

check.gif (406 bytes) Subtitles in Spanish


Outstanding 2-DVD set includes a wealth of extras

WARNING! Unless you want to ruin the magic, it is imperative that you watch the film first before you watch any of the featurettes. Enjoy the magic before you learn how it was accomplished.


check.gif (406 bytes) Feature-length audio commentary with director Robert Zemeckis, director of Photography Don Burgess, visual effects supervisor Ken Ralston and assistant Carey Villegas, and sound designer Randy Thom. Even though it sounds like the participant’s comments were tacked together (they’re not exactly screen specific), there’s so much information being passed around here that you will want to give it a listen. It’s always a pleasure listening to professionals discuss their work, especially on a film that I enjoyed this much. Much better than you might think, definitely a break from those impromptu hash sessions with no focus.

check.gif (406 bytes) Lucasfilm THX OPT Mode that allows you to adjust your systems audio and video to perfectly capture the experience.

check.gif (406 bytes) Beautiful, well thought out main and scene access menus that feature animation and clips from the film, plus ambient noise.


check.gif (406 bytes) “The Making of Cast Away,” a 25-minute HBO First Look special that travels around the world and behind-the-scenes to show us how difficult getting a major motion picture can be. Join Tom Hanks and the rest of the players as they discuss their participation and the hazards they encountered while making the film. Like most HBO First Look specials, this one tosses in the usual assortment of clips, behind-the- camera shots and interviews. There’s also some candid shots of Hanks and the crew on the island, marveling at the logistics of their endeavor.

check.gif (406 bytes) Three featurettes that take us behind-the-scenes, including “The Island,” a tour of the island film facility by Location Manager Mary Morgan. This 15-minute tour is really amazing, a real eye opening experience on how Hollywood can make something out of nothing. High shots show how well the shacks and huts are hidden from the island exterior. Morgan is a knowledgeable tour guide. There’s also a short tribute to Hank’s on-screen companion in “Wilson: The Life and Death of a Hollywood Extra.” Even though Wilson is just a volleyball, you’ll be amazed at how he’s treated on the set. Most extras would kill for his considerations and concern. Especially amusing is a behind-the-scenes shot of Zemeckis trying to get Wilson’s best side in a close up. A loving tribute. Then there’s a featurette called “S.T.O.P.: Surviving As A Cast Away,” in which three survival experts and historians explain how they helped screenwriter Broyles research the script by surviving on an island for a week. Interesting stuff that serves as cliff notes for anyone who happens to find themselves stranded on a desert island.

check.gif (406 bytes) Six special effects segments that require you to see the film to fully appreciate their impact. Join Ken Ralston, the film’s visual effects supervisor, co-supervisor Carey Villegas as they show us how some of the film’s most amazing shots were accomplished. Each segment takes us through the complete visual effects stages, from raw footage to completed product. You’ll learn how the filmmakers accomplished the amazing plane wreck, extraordinary aerial shots and whales that surface on cue. Great stuff, but it also ruins the illusion, so watch these last.

check.gif (406 bytes) A 40-minute Charlie Rose interview with Tom Hanks from Rose’s PBS show. I saw this interview when it first aired, and Hanks is very generous with his time and life, giving us much insight into this film and his choices as an actor and a human being. There’s a lot of respect in the room, and the questions are intelligent and observant. Due to the original video limitations, the digital transfer of the interview isn’t the greatest, but it’s nice to have it included here.

check.gif (406 bytes) An impressive storyboard-to-film comparison section, focusing on three scenes: The plane crash, losing Wilson and the raft escape. The layout is nice and easy to follow, making this little exercise a real pleasure. On the menu for this option there is a hidden Easter Egg where Zemeckis answers one of the film’s most nagging questions. Look for it.

check.gif (406 bytes) Several still and video galleries that lend more to the experience, including conceptual artwork, costume design, and a 5-minute montage of scenes from the film and filming set to music.

check.gif (406 bytes) Two theatrical trailers and numerous television spots.

check.gif (406 bytes) Perfectly rendered menus that are easy to access and that utilize the theme of the film to the utmost.

PROGNOSIS: Excellent

check.gif (406 bytes) 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has done a marvelous job of taking a bog film and making an equally big DVD out of it. Filled with the sort of extras that make owning a DVD player worth it.


check.gif (406 bytes) $29.98/Rated PG-13/143 Minutes/Color/32 Chapter Stops/Keepcase



HMO: 20th Century Fox Home Video

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