Cast Away

Cast Away (2000)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Cast: Tom Hanks, Helen Hunt, Geoffrey Blake
Extras: Commentary Track, Featurettes, Special Effects Vignettes, Photo Galleries, Trailers and TV Spots, and much more

Tom Hanks is a very talented and skilled actor. We all know that. But would he be able to carry the majority of an entire movie all by himself, without any supporting cast? Until recently, that question may have been reason for speculation and discussion, but since the release of Robert Zemeckis’ "Cast Away" it is glaringly obvious that there is little to nothing Tom Hanks cannot do. Even if you asked him to read the phone book or a restaurant menu, I am positive it would still make for an enjoyable and entertaining experience. All the more are many DVD fans looking forward to the <$THX,THX>-certified 2-disc DVD release of "Cast Away," a film in which Tom Hanks has a huge solo-part and can play all his cards to excellence.

Chuck Nolan (Tom Hanks) is a FedEx executive who is jetting around the world to streamline operations in even the most remote places of the world to ensure timely delivery of all FedEx packages. A person that is living by the clock and drives on schedules, Chuck has little time for his private life in-between, but he loves his girlfriend Kelly Frears (Helen Hunt) all the more.
On trip to the other end of the world on day, Chuck’s plane crashes in the middle of the ocean and as the sole survivor, he strands on a remote island with nothing but a torn inflatable boat and a number of flotsam FedEx packages.

When he begins to realize that he is alone on the island and that he won’t be leaving anytime soon, he begins settling in, getting himself shelter and exploring sources of food. Over the course of four years, Chuck manages to stay alive and become quite proficient at surviving in the tropical climate of the island and while a basketball with a painted-on face gives him some desperately needed company, it is really Kelly’s picture that keeps up his spirits. Chuck is determined to survive until one day he can go back home to finally marry the love of his life. Since not a single ship has passed in those four years however, Chuck knows that he has to leave the island to find his rescue and he begins to build a raft.

The most amazing thing about "Cast Away" is how well-paced the movie is. Running 140 minutes, you will never have the feeling the film is slow or dragging. Time is simply flying by as we watch in fascination how a person that is so utterly depending on a regulated schedule is thrown into a world where none of his values matter. It is fascinating to see how he copes with it, and how faint boyhood memories help him survive in a wilderness he was never prepared for. Hanks does an amazing job going through this transformation and on top, delivers a top performance bringing out the emotional strength that his character retrieves from the love he has for his girlfriend.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment presents "Cast Away" in an <$16x9,anamorphic> <$PS,widescreen> transfer on this DVD in the film’s original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The print that was used for this DVD is absolutely clean without the slightest speckles, mars of defects, creating an image that is absolutely stable and clean. The colors of the transfer a vibrant, nicely capturing the turquoise colors of the tropical island, as well as the paler shades during the interior scenes. The transfer features bold blacks that are solid and never break up. Shadow detail is extremely good and throughout the film you will notice, just how much detail is retained in the transfer as the imagery is strikingly rich in definition and information. Sadly some edge-enhancement is evident in a number of scenes, slightly distracting from the otherwise formidable video presentation on this DVD. The compression is very good, although I was able to spot a number of shots where banding artifacts were evident, although they are no real reason for concern.

The DVD features a great 5,1 channel <$DD,Dolby Digital> EX, as well as a <$DTS,DTS> ES audio track, both of which are extremely well produced. Differences between the tracks are marginal, although noticeable, especially in the more aggressive use of the additional rear center channel of the mixes. The track is extremely dynamic and scenes like the plane crash, or the industrial bustling atmosphere in the film’s beginning are showing, how well integrated many of the sound effects are. At the same time the use of ambient sound effects in the surrounds during the island part of the film is remarkably realistic and rich, creating an atmosphere in which you can almost feel the breeze surrounding you and the rain splattering in your face. Despite its obvious restraints, for its natural reproduction of the ambience, this part of the sound production is actually much more impressive than the flashier parts with the big booms. Dialogue is also very well integrated and always clear and understandable.
"Cast Away" is a rare gem in this day and age in that it uses a minimalist score. There are only a few select scenes in which an orchestral score has been employed. The majority of the film – and some of the most dramatic and emotional moments – are achieved completely without music, replacing the orchestra with a well-balanced cacophony of sound effects instead. This is clearly one of the most restrained and effective soundtracks in modern cinema.

"Cast Away" comes as a 2-disc Special Edition with a number of exciting extras, spearheaded by an audio <$commentary,commentary track> featuring director Robert Zemeckis and his director of photography Don Burgess, as well as the two visual effects supervisors Carey Villegas and Ken Ralston, and the movie’s sound designer Randy Thom. This is not a live commentary but a piece edited together from interviews. Nonetheless, the editing has been adequately done, matching interview segments with scenes on the screen, actually managing to almost create the illusion as if we were witnessing a live commentary. The information supplied in this track is rich and diversified as each of the participants obviously covers different ground. As a result the track may have less of an entertainment value, but is full of valuable information and production details.

On the second disc you will find a large number of video-based supplements, in the form of a series of featurettes and documentaries. The center-piece is the 24-minute HBO First Look featurette found on this disc. Featuring interviews and behind-the-scenes footage, this making-of featurette gives a good and easily-digestable overview over the production and the challenges it posed to the filmmakers without going into too much detail. "Surviving as a Castaway," "The Island" and "Wilson: The Life and Death of a Hollywood Extra" are three additional featurettes averaging out at 15-minutes each, which offer some more glimpses behind the scenes of the film’s production and cast members. They are entertaining, sometimes humorous and definitely worth checking out. Another entertaining and informative segment on the disc is "Charlie Rose interviews Tom Hanks," the unedited and unabridged version of the interview from the Charlie Rose show.

For the more technically inclined viewers, Fox has also assembled a series of special effects footage, giving viewers the chance to see a number of scenes and how they have been altered digitally from their originals. The footages is complemented by commentaries and explanations by the visual effects team, making it easy to understand how some of these effects have been achieved.

The disc is rounded out with a number of photo galleries covering everything from regular stills and production photographs to concept art, general illustrations and storyboards. All in all, a very rich mix of still images that manage to convey a lot of the production values of the movie.
Of course a variety of theatrical trailers and TV Spots can be found on the disc as well, making this DVD a very complete package.

The verdict on this DVD is easy. For $29.95 you just can’t beat it! "Cast Away" is a mesmerizing movie, Tom Hanks is a revelation as an actor and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment is consistently creating top notch DVDs, so what are you waiting for? Get this DVD already!