Cast Away is a 2000 film by 20th Century Fox and DreamWorks about a FedEx employee who is stranded on a deserted island after his plane crashes "somewhere in the South Pacific." The plot is very loosely based on the novel Robinson Crusoe.
Cast Away - starring Tom Hanks
Chuck Noland (Tom Hanks), a perpetually hurried FedEx executive, is the sole survivor of a harrowing plane crash. He is stranded alone on a deserted tropical island. After he lands on the island, Chuck's most immediate need is drinking water, which he satisfies by drinking coconut water and later by storing rain water in the discarded husks. His second immediate need is food. He attempts to fish, but is wholly unsuccessful at the start. As time progresses, his fishing skills steadily increase. Shortly after his first fishing attempt, he finds a compelling need to produce fire, which after great effort, many attempts, and some injury he succeeds in doing. Chuck takes shelter in a small cave for the majority of his stay on the island.
Luckily for Chuck, a few FedEx packages from the plane and the body of one of the pilots wash up on the shore shortly after he lands on the island. After some refitting, Chuck dons the pilot's shoes and improvises some tools from items he salvages from the washed-up packages. But his attempts to escape are thwarted by the high surf.
Four years later, a piece of a port-a-john appears on the shore. Chuck, now with a beard, long hair and wearing a loincloth, uses this fragment as a sail for the raft he makes to leave the island. It is revealed that in previous years he has considered suicide as an alternative to escape from the island. After construction of the raft, Chuck sets off into the ocean, desperately hoping for rescue. After sailing for an unknown period of time—when he is on the verge of death—he is rescued by a passing ship.
On returning home, Chuck must then come to terms with the fact that almost everyone he knew has irrevocably changed, including his fiancée who has since married and had a child with another man.
The film ends with Chuck at a crossroads, after delivering the one unopened package from the island.
One of Cast Away's notable characters is called Wilson, a volleyball from Wilson Sporting Goods (in real life, the dominant manufacturer of volleyballs)The volleyball was found in one of the FedEx boxes, When Chuck tries to make a fire and hurts his hands, he angrily took the volleyball and threw it away. This made the hand-shaped mark from his bleeding hand. Then he bandages his hands and makes Wilson. This volleyball plays the role of a mute, infinitely patient, non-living listener in the movie, providing Chuck with a companion for the 1,500 days he spends on the island. Some argue Wilson is the ideal therapist. From a theatrical standpoint, Wilson also serves to realistically stimulate dialogue in a one-person only situation. Tragically, Chuck loses Wilson after the volleyball washes off the raft and drifts too far out to sea for Chuck to be able to retrieve him.
Cast Away is well-known for its prominent product placement marketing. In this case the movie benefited two major brands: Wilson and FedEx.
At the time of the movie's release, Wilson Sporting Goods launched its own joint promotion centered around the fact that one of its products was "co-starring" with Tom Hanks.
Despite the fact that the plot revolves around the tragic crash of a FedEx plane, the company correctly guessed that the movie would not damage its reputation. FedEx cooperated closely with the filmmakers to ensure that all FedEx materials seen in the movie were authentic. Chuck's "coming-home" scene was filmed on location at FedEx's home facilities in Memphis, Tennessee. According to an interview on the DVD release of the film, FedEx Corporation did not pay for product-placement rights. However, the extensive support that the company provided to the film can be considered a form of payment for the placement.
Some commentators claim that the use of the FedEx brand and logo in its present form is an anachronism, since the first half of the film was set in 1995 while FedEx Corporation was officially titled FDX Corp. at the time. (FedEx Corporation changed to its present name in 2000.) However, the brand "FedEx" began to be used by the overnight-courier division of the company in 1994. The complete absence of references in the film to the old names that had been recently in use could still be considered a flaw.
Isolation is a prominent theme in the movie, as Hanks's character is trapped on a deserted island for over four years. To cope with his isolation, he creates Wilson out of a Wilson volleyball that he finds in a package that was supposed to be delivered. It is left ambiguous as to whether Chuck created Wilson so that he would have someone to talk to in order to keep from going insane, or whether he has gone insane and thinks that Wilson can talk, or whether this perceived "insanity" was a necessary tactic against complete mental breakdown.
Return from death
Another theme is return from death. Chuck was trapped on the island for four years, and was assumed dead by everyone. As such, the world has moved on in his absence . When Chuck is rescued by the passing ship, he is near death. When he returns, it is almost as if he has come back from the dead.
Parallels to Homer's Odyssey
From a certain point of view, Castaway can be read as a modern retelling of Homer's Odyssey. In both stories, the hero is left cast away after a storm, and must undertake a difficult journey home. Each hero uses his wits and skills in order to survive and return home to his wife. Some motifs, such as captivity on an island, journey through an unknown world back to a familiar home, and meetings with giants (Odysseus with the Cyclops and Chuck with the whale), appear in both stories.
Parallels to Gilligan's Island
From another point of view, Cast Away can be read as a modern retelling of Gilligan's Island. In both stories, the protagonists are stranded on a deserted, tropical island, and each features the main characters' attempts to get back to civilization. Cast Away however does not struggle with issues relating to clothing. Noland is left with the mere clothes he had at the beginning of the movie and the crude clothes he is able to fashion as the movie progresses. Viewers of Gilligan's Island are left to wrestle with such philosophical issues as to why the show's castaways had so many changes of clothing with them if they were in fact on a three hour tour. This excludes Ginger, who appeared to only have a low cut evening gown with her.
Notable Award nominations
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