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Cast Away This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   The greatest films are not about computer-generatedspecial effects, highly paid actors or exotic alien locales. The greatest filmsare about portraying the human experience at its very core. They're about beingexposed to wonderful concepts, believable characters and realities so hard andstrong that joy and hope and sadness come pouring out.

These human aspectsare what make "Cast Away" such a great film. It manages to portray thevery essence of the human spirit in a way that's heartfelt and unique. Althoughit doesn't have a large-scale battle or last for three hours, make no mistakeabout it, this is an epic in the purest sense.

Tom Hanks stars as ChuckNoland, a workaholic FedEx efficiency expert who travels the world helping FedExoffices become more productive. Although he's constantly strapped for time, hegenerally likes his job. Second on his priority list is Kelly, his grad-studentgirlfriend (Helen Hunt) back home in Tennessee, to whom he plans to propose overthe holidays. He manages to spend Christmas with her, but is called into work thefollowing day.

Before leaving, the two exchange presents on the airportrunway. Pressed for time, he gives her the ring and tells her, "I'll beright back." As with many of his promises, these words come back to haunthim when his plane crashes in the middle of the Pacific.

Noland findshimself the only survivor, stranded on a remote island. His chances of survivalare slim, but thanks to some packages that wash ashore (it was a FedEx cargoplane, after all) and his refusal to let go of Kelly and the rest ofcivilization, he manages to stay alive. We watch Noland live through four yearsin a hostile and existentialist world, and witness his transformation from aneveryday guy to an almost insane shell of a man. Faced with the prospect ofliving on that island for the rest of his life, Noland builds a raft and embarkson a journey for home.

This is Hanks' film, and he shines in a performancethat could very well be the best of his career. His transformation frombeleaguered efficiency expert to modern-day Robinson Crusoe is incredible notonly in terms of physicality (film crews took a year off so Hanks could lose 50pounds for his character's transformation) but also in terms of acting, as hedepicts a very believable castaway. His interactions with Wilson, a volleyball hepaints a face on and talks to, is brilliantly done. The conversations aregenuine, and we believe Wilson is a real entity for Noland.

Aside fromchats with Wilson, there isn't much dialogue in the movie. Although it may soundboring to watch a guy walk around an island all by himself, Hanks does a greatjob answering the challenge and making the movie entertaining. If you admire agood performance, Tom Hanks' in "Cast Away" is one of the best.

The movie is also easy to relate to. Hanks' performance creates a nicereflection of reality, with a central character who is not only real but alsolikable. He's just an everyday guy after all, and in today's world wheretechnology dominates, it's interesting to see him struggle over things likecracking open a coconut and building a campfire. He falls asleep every nightlooking at his only memento of Kelly - a photo in a small locket - and weinstantly feel his sorrow. His moments of triumph do not become just his, butours as well. When he succeeds in building a fire, for example, he goes crazywith happiness and shows a very primal side that we all possess.

In away, "Cast Away" is also about a man returning to the very essence ofhumanity. It's hard not to wonder What would I do if I were stranded on anisland? Could I bear the loneliness? Could I even survive?

The only flawin the film lies in its disjointed plot. One example is the strange openingsequence far from the main focus that doesn't have significance until much, muchlater (when you've nearly forgotten it). The ending is also not as satisfying asit could be, but in truth, it's hard to think of a better one. Although the plotis generally tight, if you over-analyze it, a few loose connections could reallysour your aftertaste.

Helen Hunt's Kelly is the only other character tospeak of, and though her limited screen time at first makes her seem weak, Hunt'sacting is superb and very convincing, especially at the end.

On an islandwhere there isn't much to do or see, "Cast Away" manages to create anexperience more profound than perhaps anything else this year. Like "ForrestGump" (the other film on which Hanks and director Robert Zemeckiscollaborated), "Cast Away" shies away from fight sequences, insteadcentering on the basics - strong acting, audience appeal and heartfelt triumph -and still manages to top many overblown Hollywood productions.




This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.





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