In Cast Away, Chuck Noland's septic tooth is emblematic of a smallish irritation that festers into a horrible wound. As with the myriad details of his personal life, he was not so much unaware of its importance as he was careless about his priorities. As a Fed-Ex manager, he figures life is long but time is short, so move move move because one of those packages might have berries or a paycheck in them; dental work and marriage proposals can wait a week. Likewise, the camera is rooted and aloof until a parcel labeled Fed-Ex comes into view. Then the camera attaches itself and zips along with it. The camera POV, like Noland, is high on activity and thrills in efficiency. "We live and die by Time," he tells his staff. "And we must not commit the sin of turning our back on Time."

But then, Time turns its back on its most devoted acolyte. He is cast away from civilization--Chuck'd. He becomes a resident of No-land (this movie is nothing if not direct). The first thing he does upon washing ashore is to check his drowned pager. The second is to check the watch his almost-fiancee gave him a just few hours before. Though he promised to always keep it set according to the time zone in which she lived, it was wrecked in the crash and would forever after record the moment he lost her. Lost just about everything, in fact.

Including a lot of weight. There were press releases contemporaneous with the release of Cast Away that claimed Tom Hanks packed on sixty pounds in preparation for filming, but I don't buy it. Hanks was plenty hefty in his last few movies, The Green Mile, Saving Private Ryan and You've Got Mail (yes, I saw it--I don't want to talk about it). He was a fat cat on the screen (as a prison warden, army captain, and CEO, respectively) and off (as a producer in television and documentary film), and his weight gave him an air of authority and purpose. Go to the gym? No time! He's got important stuff to do.

That gravitas was lost, psychically and well as physically, in Cast Away. It was simply impossible to imagine that little curly haired slip of a guy running a prison, army unit, corporation, or even a bunch of Fed-Ex flunkies. His absence of flab was an persistent, unmissable trope for all that was absent in his life-even that awful tooth. This is reflected in the camera's movement. Where at the beginning it was fleet and sure, it was shocked in to lethargy on the island, and in the end, just tags along with Noland. And Noland, having delivered the package that gave his island life focus, is bereft of everything that was important to him except the thing that was most important to him--Time.

The House of Mirth
Mulholland Dr.
Ghost World
AI: Artificial Intelligence
Angel Eyes

Back to Cobra Movies

(Written by Sharon C. McGovern)


Chuck'd in No-Land: Tom Hanks (before) in Cast Away.

Fire the Easy Way: Tom Hanks (after) in Cast Away.