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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Cast Away is a 2000 movie in which Tom Hanks plays a FedEx employee stranded on a desolate island for five years who must develop tremendous mental, physical, and emotional resilience to survive. There is frequent peril, beginning with the real-time plane crash in which Hanks' character must simultaneously avoid drowning and burning from the plane's wreckage. A dead body from the plane washes ashore. In a moment of rage, the lead character calls the island he is trapped on a "goddamn s--thole." In a scene that will definitely be too gruesome for more sensitive viewers, Chuck extracts a painfully sore tooth with a rock and the blade of an ice skate. His injuries draw blood, and his struggles to maintain sanity in the midst of so much isolation might be too intense for more sensitive viewers.
What's the story?
In CAST AWAY, Chuck Noland (Tom Hanks), a precise time-watcher who works for Federal Express, is called to duty on Christmas Eve and promises his girlfriend (Helen Hunt) that he'll be home for New Year's. But his plane crashes in the Pacific, and everyone else is killed. Chuck washes up on a deserted island. Suddenly, all he has is time. He expects to be rescued and sorts the FedEx packages that wash up. When he finally realizes no one's coming, he gets to work, using items from the packages as survival tools. A volleyball, stained with his own blood, becomes a companion. But he leaves one package unopened as a symbol of his identity -- the man who gets the packages delivered. Four years later, the side of a cabin bathroom washes ashore, and Noland has what he needs to create a sail. He knows the tides and the seasons well and plans an escape, knowing he'd rather die out on the ocean than stay on the island. What finally makes it possible for him to leave isn't what he relied on in his old life but the hope he has learned on the island.
Is it any good?
This movie is a moving exploration of what happens when everything we hold on to is taken away from us. There may be crystal waters and azure skies, but this is no Blue Lagoon, and Hanks is no Brooke Shields. There is no music and almost no dialogue. Cast Away is brutal and painful. For 45 minutes, we are alone on the island with Noland. He shreds his leg on coral and has to extract an abscessed tooth. Noland is an engaging character, and Hanks is undeniably one of the world's most engaging actors. But the film is more impressive than involving and begins to seem more of an acting exercise than a saga about the triumph of the human spirit or the importance of love and family.
There are some moving and beautiful moments on the raft, especially the glimpse of a whale's eye peeking just above the water. But once he gets home, the movie falters. We know, though, that the world he left now seems strange to him and that it will take a long while for him to reorient himself and decide where he will go next. He has mastered the skill of spearing a fish and making a raft, but he has to learn a whole new set of survival skills back at home.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what is left when we strip away the conventions and conveniences of our society after watching Cast Away. How do we decide what our priorities and values are?
From Robinson Crusoe, Lord of the Flies, Lost, and even Gilligan's Island to many others, characters being forced to survive on faraway islands is a recurring theme. What do you think is the universal appeal of "trapped on an island" stories?
FedEx is featured prominently in this movie. Do you have a problem with a movie having this degree of product placement? Why, or why not? What would be gained or lost if the movie featured a fictional shipping company instead?
- In theaters: December 22, 2000
- On DVD or streaming: March 5, 2002
- Cast: Helen Hunt, Paul Sanchez, Tom Hanks
- Director: Robert Zemeckis
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
- Genre: Drama
- Character Strengths: Courage, Gratitude, Perseverance
- Run time: 143 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some intense images and action sequences
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