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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Isolation > Survival > Psychology > History > Cast Away (Blu-ray/20th Century Fox/2000) + The Noah (DVD/Pathfinder/1974)

Cast Away (Blu-ray/20th Century Fox/2000) + The Noah (DVD/Pathfinder/1974)


Picture: B+/B-     Sound: A-/C+     Extras: C-/C     Film: C-/B



Trying to repeat blockbuster commercial success, Tom Hanks and Robert Zemeckis reteamed after the major hit Forrest Gump (1994) for Cast Away, with high expectations being met at the box office.  Though it is not as discussed as the earlier hit, enough people liked it to make it a hit and its winning ways as a moneymaker for Fox continues as it hits Blu-ray as one of their higher profile back catalog releases.


Like Gump playing as a gutted version of Joel Schumacher’s Falling Down, Cast Away plays out like an oversimplified version of Robinson Crusoe, which has been filmed many times.  A man lands up on an island against his will and is stuck there.  What will he do?  Robinson Crusoe On Mars was recently reissued by Criterion on Blu-ray (now reviewed elsewhere on this site) after DVD and even 12” LaserDisc versions, the variations of the classic book so successful.  However, the most mature and progressive rendering of the tale has always been Daniel Bourla’s The Noah (1974) in which a soldier (Robert Strauss) lands on an island and is very, very alone.


Unlike the original Daniel Defoe book, the two film versions we are covering here never have a “man Friday” as the characters are never that lucky.  In Hanks’ case, he gets a soccer ball he names after the company who produced it and makes it his friend, while Friday surfaces only as a delusional voice (Geoffrey Holder, who was Baron Samedi in the James bond film Live & Let Die (also reviewed on Blu-ray on this site) the year prior) in the beginning of a great deconstruction of the Stevenson book.


While the Hanks film seems more like a series of sinister ad placements (setting a record for Fed Ex logos in one film) not so cleverly disguised as a melodrama.  That this was a hit and Hanks was so distracting shows how good an actor he really is.  Running a very, very long 144 minutes, he is likely the only actor at this time the audience would have sat through enough and tolerated in this weak a film to make it a hit.  The message of the film is that there is no more loneliness or privacy, as long as there is an ad placement and the reach of U.S, Corporations has saved/warmed the world.  That is as silly as it is self-serving, wrong, inaccurate and condescending as any film since such films were made in the early 1980s.


The Noah starts with a Biblical quote (so it cannot be accused of being Left wing propaganda and is not from an era where such things were predictable politicized) and has the soldier land up on an island abandoned (were they rescued, escaped, or just died is unknown) by someone who built a hit and filled it with pictures of Soviet icons and Mao itself.  Note the very idea of communism is that you are never an individual and always part of the group state.  That never stacks up to reality.


That Holder is picked as a Friday voice is ironic, playing strong black men in his films, being an exceptionally strong stage performer and given great voice-over dialogue from Bourla’s screenplay that is of a proud black man of the Civil Rights era and not a Stephen Fetchit type.  Without ruining anything, the film continues (in its remarkable 107 minutes) to go further and thoroughly explore all the possibilities of the Crusoe archetype.  All Cast Away can do is waddle in its silliness, which is comfortable in a disturbingly bad way that should be reexamined by clearer minds.


The conclusions fop both in maturity and substance just confirm these observations.  It is worth adding that Strauss’ performance is even better than Hanks, which is still good.



The 1080p AVC @ 33 MBPS 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image was shot in Super 35mm film by Don Burgess, A.S.C., who made a good looking film looking good here.  The only thing that dates the image is the dated use of digital video effects.  I must admit to a couple of demo moments, with consistent color and detail in the non-digital shots at their best.  I did wonder if some of the outdoor shots were manipulated for mood purposes and some shots seem to confirm this.  The anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 black and white image on The Noah DVD has more good looking shots than soft ones, nicely shot by Director of Photography Jerry Kalogeratos.  Pathfinder claims this comes from the original 35mm negative and there are many shots where it shows.  I hope we see this in HD eventually, because with a little work on the negative, this would be incredible in 1080p and up.


The DTS-HD Master Audio (MA) lossless 5.1 mix on Cast Away is the highlight of the film, especially in the airplane crash sequence.  The rest of the mix can be subtle, but ambiance is well done, Alan Silvestri’s mixed score is clear and dialogue is cleanly recorded.  This mix was built to last.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is also not bad for its age on The Noah DVD, with voiceovers a bit forward sounding, but actually a plus considering the overall age of the optical mono theatrical film release. 


Extras on Cast Away include a trivia track, trailer in HD and audio commentary by Zemeckis and crew, while The Noah offers text biographies, stills and a nice excerpts section of seven pieces from a soundtrack for the film in Stereo.  When Decca issued it as a 12” vinyl LP record, it was actually in Quadraphonic sound, but this material is from a ¼” magnetic sub master.  Guess they could not track down a vinyl copy for the 4-track or the master tape.


If you have seen Cast Away before, only HD could be the reason to see it again out of curiosity.  Most have not seen The Noah in decades and should be considered a must-see for any serious film or literature fan.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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