Daily Archives: December 18, 2000

Cast Away

From the Chicago Reader (December 18, 2000). — J.R.

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When Robert Zemeckis starts getting serious, it’s time to clear the streets. According to David Denby, Cast Away demonstrates that the director is now ready to tackle Melville, but I’m not sure he’s even ready for Defoe: this is at best an OK variation on the Robinson Crusoe saga sandwiched between sections of an unsatisfying love story. It’s several cuts down from Luis Buñuel’s 1952 Defoe adaptation and seriously hampered by the absence of any Friday (unless one counts a blood-smeared volleyball treated like a fetish and surrogate human), but it’s certainly enhanced by Tom Hanks. Less unctuous than he was as Zemeckis’s Forrest Gump, Hanks plays a FedEx employee who finds himself on a desert island with all the time in the world. The film holds one’s interest, and there’s some nice if underdeveloped ironic poetry when the hero has to depend on diverse FedEx packages to keep himself alive. But this is too full of its own heavy breathing to work as the primordial storytelling it’s aiming for — a so-so adventure story is closer to the mark. Written by William Broyles Jr.; with Helen Hunt and Nick Searcy. 142 min.Read more »

All The Pretty Horses

I haven’t read Cormac McCarthy’s acclaimed novel, nor do I know what kind of material got deleted from this adaptation, which was reduced by about one of its original three hours (the apparently preferred length of director and coproducer Billy Bob Thornton), but despite some choppiness here and there the movie holds together pretty well. This is a melancholy, lyrical, and elegiac western, set around 1949, in which a young and dispossessed rancher in west Texas (Matt Damon) rides off with his best friend (Henry Thomas) to the Rio Grande, picking up a teenage renegade (Lucas Black) en route, and eventually falls in love with the daughter (Penelope Cruz) of a Mexican rancher he works for. The landscapeswhich come close to outshining the worthy actors in the opening and closing stretchesare beautiful, and the plot, which is basically a grim coming-of-age story, holds one’s interest throughout. Scripted by Ted Tally; with Ruben Blades, Robert Patrick, Julio Oscar Mechoso, Miriam Colon, Bruce Dern, and Sam Shepard. 112 min. (JR)… Read more »

Traffic

From the Chicago Reader (December 18, 2000). — J.R.

I don’t get it. Maybe my bias against drug dealers, drug barons, and drug addicts as interesting characters is responsible, but I don’t see this slightly better-than-average drug thriller, with slightly better-than-average direction by Steven Soderbergh, as anything more than a routine rubber-stamping of genre reflexes. (Even the film’s racism — the implication that drug taking by teenage white girls logically leads to their having sex with black males — seems depressingly typical.) Nothing especially new or fresh has been added to the formula by Stephen Gaghan’s screenplay, which shuttles between southern California, Mexico, Ohio, and Washington, D.C., but if you’re happy just to see Don Cheadle, Benicio Del Toro, Michael Douglas, Luis Guzman, Dennis Quaid, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Albert Finney, among others, move across the screen and deliver lines, here’s your chance to indulge. 147 min. (JR)… Read more »