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"Chuck becomes aware of how precious time is -- not to make money or put in hours of job service, but to be with and assist family and friends."
Raymond Teague is the author of Reel
Spirit: A Guide to Movies That
He is an award-winning
His book is available by clicking the "Buy the Book" link above.
"Reel Spirit" Movie Reviews
On its adventure-filled surface, this film is about a castaway – a Federal Express troubleshooter who survives a plane crash and is stranded on a South Pacific island for four years. It's a grand vehicle for Tom Hanks to do his Robinson Crusoe turn. Hanks does a fine job of showing the resourcefulness of the human spirit.
But there's an important message for modern society beneath the surface of Cast Away, and it's important to note that the film is not titled Castaway but Cast Away.
The title and the screenplay by William Broyles Jr. suggests this question: What do we routinely cast away as a society? The answer: what is truly important in life -- opportunities to love and share.
As represented by Tom Hanks' character Chuck Noland, society instead tends to be fixated on other things -- particularly time and money. The film, directed by Robert Zemeckis, opens with the almost manic Chuck instructing FedEx employees in Moscow about the importance of time in meeting carrier deadlines.
It's necessary to live and die by the clock, Chuck declares, and cautions the workers against committing "the sin" of turning their backs on time. A slave himself to time and job, Chuck gives up Christmastime with his girl friend, Kelly (Helen Hunt), to go on another work assignment. Sure, the man has to work like most of us, but it's obvious that work and time dedicated to work have become the driving motivations in Chuck's life.
After being alone on the island for some time, Chuck ruefully recalls his words about time. He's aware of a new dimension to time and of time's lost opportunities.
Chuck becomes aware of how precious time is -- not to make money or put in hours of job service, but to be with and assist family and friends.
Eventually off the island, Chuck tells Kelly, "I never should have gotten on that plane. I never should have gotten out of the car."
He's not just talking about the crash or his years on the island, but about the loss of loved ones and missed opportunities to share life with them.
Chuck returns to civilization with a new understanding of the importance of the choices we make about the use of our time and lives. He also has an awareness of how vital hope is to one's spirit and how varied are the sources of inspiration.
Chuck, one suspects, has gone through life as a control freak. He was no doubt attracted to the FedEx job because it seemingly allowed him to manage time.
He was transformed, however, with this realization on the island: "I had power over nothing."
With that declaration of powerlessness, Chuck discovers a new inner power and an unexplainable sense of peace that "came over me like a warm blanket."
Chuck's concept of time now is simply "Tomorrow the sun will rise," but he approaches that sunrise with renewed hope and meaning.
Two excellent movies that opened around the same time as Cast Away provide viewers with a sense that a faith in God is necessary to add meaning to life.
In You Can Count on Me (2000, 111 minutes, R), the main character, Sammy (Laura Linney), sees religion as an anchor in her troubled life, and tries to convince her brother, Terry (Mark Ruffalo), that he needs that anchor too. Terry does have faith; he just doesn't want to give the name God to his faith.
All the Pretty Horses (2000, 118 minutes, PG-13), beautifully based on Cormac McCarthy's novel, begins and ends with John Grady Cole (Matt Damon) ruminating about God. The conclusion seems to be that, somehow and despite appearances often to the contrary, God is protecting us and all is in divine order.