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Sitting down to watch CAST AWAY ($30) for the first time, I didn't know what to expect from the movie. To be honest, I hadn't paid attention to the ads and ignored the reviews. Sure, leading man Tom Hanks has a couple of Oscars under his belt and I knew that CAST AWAY was a serious project. However, somewhere back in my mind remains the notion of Hanks in a dress during his BOSOM BUDDIES days, not to mention that the CAST AWAY concept is reminiscent of a little television show known as GILLIGAN'S ISLAND. Fortunately, CAST AWAY turned out to be anything but the twisted image scrambling through my sitcom sodden brain.

CAST AWAY is a very solid motion picture that showcases the enormous talent of Tom Hanks, who spends much of the film's running time alone on screen and saying very little. However, Hanks and director Robert Zemeckis make every moment of this motion picture completely compelling and worth every moment of the audience’s attention. In CAST AWAY Hanks portrays Chuck Noland, an upper echelon Fed-Ex troubleshooter, whose very existence is ruled by the clock. When Chuck is called away at Christmas, he asks Kelly (Helen Hunt), the woman he loves, to marry him before hopping on a Fed-Ex jet. Unfortunately, the plane crashes, leaving Chuck the only survivor to wash up on a tiny, uninhabited island in the middle of the south pacific. With nothing but time on his hands and the memory of the woman he loves to keep him sane, Chuck is forced to use his ingenuity and the contents of a few packages that also washed up on the island in order to survive.

Although the plot of CAST AWAY extends beyond what I have described, those who have not seen the film should be afforded the opportunity to walk into cold, as I did. I think the audience will get more out of this film, the less that they actually know about it. The film does raise some interesting issues about our reliance on the gadgets that have become commonplace in the urban jungle and how well the average man might fare if he had to survive without the implements that he uses in everyday life. As I stated above, it is Tom Hanks that makes CAST AWAY a compelling and thoroughly entertaining motion picture experience. The weight of this 143-minute film rests squarely on his shoulders, and I think audience would have walked out in the middle, if he hadn't been up to the task. In fact, the performance is so good, I think that he deserved more than the Best Actor nomination that he received at Oscar time. The cast of CAST AWAY also includes Nick Searcy, Christopher Noth, Lari White, Geoffrey Blake, Jenifer Lewis and David Allen Brooks.

CAST AWAY is a Fox and Dreamworks co-production that has been offered on DVD by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The 16:9 enhanced presentation frames CAST AWAY at 1.85:1 and not in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio that is stated on the DVD's packaging. Like most new big budget movies coming to DVD, CAST AWAY looks superb. The image is oh so crisp and finely detailed that textures in the foliage sand and the water are clearly visible. Colors are virtually perfect, with natural looking flesh tones and strongly saturated hues that appear completely stable. Blacks are right on the money, plus the image produces excellent shadow detail and tremendous depth. Even the processed "day for night" shots on the island look very impressive. Clean dual layer authoring completely conceals all traces of digital compression artifacts.

CAST AWAY features a very good Dolby Digital 5.1 channel sound mix, which works very effectively in both of the film's sonic environments. Civilization sounds very different from the island, but both make effective use of the discrete nature of the format. As with everyday life, I kind of tuned out the hustle and bustle of motor vehicles and the other sounds that drive the mechanized world. However, I certainly became aware of the sound mix during the film's plane crash sequence. The crash packs a sonic wallop and is certainly everything that I'd expect from this type of disaster sequence. The film then shifts its sound design to depict life on the uninhabited island- this portion of the sound mix is not only more enveloping than what preceded it, it is also far more involving. Suddenly, the quiet and subtle use of the discrete channel for the sounds of nature made me prick up ears, so that I became subconsciously aware that I was sharing the experience of being trapped on the deserted island along with the film's protagonist. Throughout the film, dialogue reproduction is very clean, very natural and completely intelligible. The bass channel comes to explosive life during key moments, but otherwise maintains a low profile. Alan Silvestri's score is used a bit sparingly, but is otherwise nicely recorded and well integrated into the mix. CAST AWAY also features a DTS 5.1 channel soundtrack that adds an extra layer of resolution to what is already a very fine sound mix in Dolby Digital. English and French surround soundtracks are also encoded onto the DVD, as are English and Spanish subtitles.

Full motion video, animation and sound all serve to enhanced the DVD's interactive menus. Through the menus one has access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as some fine supplemental material. CAST AWAY has been issued as a two-disc set, with the bulk of the supplements being contained on disc two. Disc one's only supplement is a running audio commentary with director Robert Zemeckis, director of photography Don Burgess, visual effects supervisor Ken Ralston, co-visual effects supervisor Carey Villegas and sound designer Randy Thom. Although edited together, this is a highly informative commentary track that fans of the film will truly appreciate.

Disc two's supplements include a number of featurettes, starting off with the HBO First Look: The Making Of Cast Away. Running just shy of twenty-five minutes, this is a better than average PR program highlighting the film. Also running the same length of time is S.T.O.P.: Surviving As A Castaway, which is an effective survival guide- should one ever find themselves in the same predicament as the film's protagonist. The Island runs under fifteen minutes and details working on the film's primary location. Less serious is the final featurette- Wilson: The Life & Death of A Hollywood Extra. Less than ten minutes long, this program pays homage to the only other cinema luminary to share the screen with Tom Hanks and practically steal the film away... Also included on disc two is a great Tom Hanks interview from The Charlie Rose Show. Special effects fans will enjoy the six vignettes presented on the DVD that breaks down individual sequences. The supplemental disc also features and extensive video and still gallery that contains a look behind-the-scenes, storyboards, conceptual art and illustrations. Two theatrical trailers and ten TV spots close out disc two's array of supplements.

CAST AWAY is a solid and entertaining motion picture that features an impressive performance from Tom Hanks. Fox has done a tremendous job with the DVD, creating a disc that not only features marvelous sight and sound, but an excellent supplemental section. If you are a fan, you'll want to own CAST AWAY on DVD. If you have never seen the film, the DVD is the only way to go. Highly recommended.


Cast Away


DVD reviews are Copyright 2001 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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