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Film Review: Cast Away

Time idolizer and über-manager Chuck Noland, irritatingly portrayed by Tom Hanks in this FedEx infomercial, begins his odyssey by deliberation and making conscious choices. The first is to enter a car which leads to boarding an airplane. These actions represent the millions of our daily little crossroads and at the same time our free-will. An accident of history then plunges Chunk into a new chapter of his life that includes the tests of social isolation and physical survival without taken-for-granted commodities.

Hanks' performance improves at this point in inverse proportion to his dialogue, and the viewer is presented with several sub-themes. Elements of Oceanic Cargo Cult are blended with corporate & social duties, love, madness, and liberation, all of which are enveloped by a totalitarian and atheistic sea. Chuck is at first antagonized by nature and conflicted between the gifts of cargo and his duty as the FedEx Man. This conflict is resolved after he buries the unfortunate and washed-up Pilot Al. This event is the symbolic and half-complete burial of Chuck's "old self".

Chuck now begins to accept the gifts of cargo and his ability to survive and to stand up to the brutality of nature increases. One piece of cargo reserved in special status, however, is left inviolate; it is a package with a butterfly image drawn on it and stands in as a symbol of rebirth and liberation. The physical and symbolic meanings behind this piece in concert with another piece of flotsam - the busted biffy - leads ultimately to Chuck's physical but not spiritual liberation.

The themes of love and madness are less convincingly developed. Surrounded by the unquestionable totality of nature, Chuck loses touch with reality and is consoled by a photo and the memories of his fiancée Kelly, which with the reserved FedEx package are venerated and anchor him as the only two remaining pieces of his "old self". The real degeneration into madness and spiritual void is portrayed by Chuck's relationship with Wilson the volleyball head.

The end of the film is a hollow let down: love lost, the corporate embrace, and the crossroads on the Texas plain with horizons as wide as the sea, all show the futility of ever having left the island -- the futility of choice. All in all, this is an appropriate film with which to enter the 21st century.

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