Cast: Tom Hanks, Helen Hunt, Nick Searcy, Chris Noth
Director: Robert Zemekis
Theatrical release: 2000; available on DVD
Believe it or not, this modern-day Robinson Crusoe story starts out in a Russian FedEx warehouse. Tom Hanks, our Everyman hero, plays Chuck Nolan, the supervisor who has his hands full trying to convey the time-obsessed realities of the corporate tagline (The World. On Time.) to his newly minted employees.
Eventually, everything FedEx connects to Memphis and Noland is no exception, although it seems he barely has time to change clothes as he zooms to catch the next flight — in a cargo plane's jumpseat. He and his girlfriend (Helen Hunt) even resort to consulting their DayPlanners to find a substitute time to celebrate the holidays.
In the car at the airport (again), Noland and his girlfriend lightheartedly exchange Christmas gifts, with one surprise — Noland offers an engagement ring and heads for the plane. Then he hikes back across the tarmac from the waiting flight to assure Hunt he'll be home soon.
Famous last words. When the cargo plane falls out of the sky — in one of the most amazing pre-LOST crash sequences — our hero faces a reality no clocks can affect.
The heart of this film is in the tranformation FedEx fanatic Noland undergoes after he washes up on a small island in the South Pacific. Once he realizes he won't be immediately found, Noland must decide if he wants to survive, how he can stay alive with what he finds on the island, and what might be useful from the assortment of cargo he rescued from the ocean. Unlike Robinson Crusoe, Noland has no Friday to keep him company. But remaining completely alone is not an option, either. As Noland stumbles on a solution, we are drawn into his challenge and impressed with his creativity.
Ultimately, Noland must get past even more barriers in order to put himself in a position to be found. Once home, he realizes the life he left behind no longer exists, and he faces yet another opportunity for transformation.
The first time I saw this film was in its edited-for-TV version. I'm not sure why I missed it on the big screen, but even on the small one, I was unexpectedly drawn into this story. Whether or not you like Tom Hanks, this performance is superb — and he received a Golden Globe award for this efforts. We're with him through the highs and lows and eventual reconfiguration he starts. Because the story of facing-challenge-and-surviving mirrors the universal human condition, we never tire of watching others face their demons and prevail.
Two DVD versions are available, so if you purchase instead of renting or putting it your Netflix queue, be sure to pick the one you'll use. The "full screen" package (designed for the standard 3:4 TV format) contains one disk with the movie and director's commentary. The widescreen edition is a two-disk set with additional features, including the theatrical trailer, TV program and featurettes, documentaries, art gallery, and storyboards.