Reflections on the Movie “Castaway”

Here’s one movie that I don’t have to qualify as being a chick flick and therefore being worthy of my attention primarily because of my marriage. No, Castaway is a manly flick, a movie that depicts a man (Tom Hanks) struggling against the elements to survive on a remote desert island following a horrific plane crash. For more than four years, Hanks’s character fashions a life for himself on this little island. He eventually sets sail in hope of finding a shipping lane and with it a ship that will take him back to his home and, more importantly, his fiancee.

The movie is thoroughly of this age. In the past, a survivor film of this sort would show the character engaged in some sort of religious devotion to a deity who controlled his fate. In this film, Hanks’s character seems to have no idea that God even exists. He prays to noone and nothing and never directs his thoughts or words upwards. Instead, he makes a companion for himself out of a volleyball that washes to shore, and he directs his conversation to this imaginary friend, which he names “Wilson.” In Castaway, our protagonist is a man of his age, a thoroughly secular man who survives for years by the strength of his will and the ingenuity of his mind. A modern man, he becomes the noble savage, only to become the modern man once more.

This point notwithstanding, it is entertaining and inspiring to watch Hanks’s character struggle for survival. His will is strong and his instincts sharp. This is a man of action, a man of courage, one who is not content to sit back and weep over his fate. Indeed, love inspires his action, and reminds us of the need for a transcendental purpose for life. Of course, love of a human is not itself transcendent. Rather, it becomes transcendent in the life of Hanks’s character. We who are Christians, those who have been possessed by the transcendent one, know that we cannot find our ultimate purpose in this life. We must find it in One who has given us this life and who gives us the means and motive by which to live this life. Hanks’s character has no sense of such higher philosophy. At the end of his life, he has naught to do but ponder where to go next. When his purpose is fulfilled, or, more accurately, cancelled, there is nothing more for him to do but drift through his world. I am not sure that the movie is making my point, but it succeeds in doing so, for we are left with a man who is homeless, rootless, aimless. We are reminded of the need to find the transcendent being while we have time. We are shown that it is natural that we should seek for Him though we do so by pursuing lesser things. When the lesser things fail, when loves dries up, when a social cause dies down, when tragedy strikes, to what–more importantly, to Whom–will we turn? If we fail to pursue the One who created us, we will end up as lost as Hanks’s character in Castaway, whether we live on a tropical island by ourselves or amidst a million city faces.

  • fanny

    One of the worst movies ever. The guy spent half of the movie talking to a volley ball! Maybe you could review LadyKillers sometime? I think it’s a much more interesting Tom Hanks movie.

  • Riley

    Owen,
    What’s up with writing on all of these old movies? Have you seen The Kingdom yet? Thoughts on that?


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