I loved this film. Chuck Nolan a FEDEX manager has crashed on an unknown island and he doesn’t know what to do. He has to learn. He has no choice. He is thirsty. He is trying to open a coconut to get the water but he keeps failing. In the city of Memphis he was a successful slick manager, solving problems with the swipe of a credit card or a witty remark. But here deep in the pacific completely alone, Nature is not accepting Visa master card. The birds in the sky and the worms on the ground don’t get his jokes nor are they impressed that he was a big shot manager at FEDEX. They don’t care. They are naked they look different they make strange sounds and they don’t give a flying Frisbee about FedEx. Unless they can eat it.
Because he is dying of thirst. And yes he will die of thirst if he doesn’t do something about it. In the natural world words like dying, killing, broken are not metaphorical exaggerations. They are actual possibilities. Desperate for water Chuck tries to open a coconut. Because he wants to drink the water in it. But finally when he does crack it open the water spills out. But he has no choice. If he does not drink water he will die. So he keeps trying. He throws the coconuts against a cliff. It cracks slightly. With his bare fingers he rips off the leathery green covering to reveal the much valued round inner core. With a pointed rock he digs at it creating a hole. With leaves and twigs he makes a funnel and straw. Finally when he gets to drink it, there isn’t enough to quench his thirst.
Then his struggle to start a fire begins. He gives up several times. Oh how simple it all looks in those cave man history books. You just rub two rocks together and there you have it! But it isn’t so simple. No. To start a fire Chuck struggles and experiments with dry sticks until he learns to use sand dried leaves to start a flame. And once you have that then you are golden. Because all you need is a tiny tiny flame to set gigantic logs on fire. Wow.
Eventually he learns to fish. He wades into the transparent waters braving jagged rocks to strike the fat fish with his wooden spear. With crabs he learns to distinguish the species. Some have white tasty meat in their shells. Others are full of muddy slime. He learns to bake crab over logs of fire. The fish he eats raw, caring not for table manners because there is no table. There is no chair. Who needs a house when the ground is your floor and your ceiling is the sky?
Five years have passed. He is now a cave man. Lean and resourceful with a respect for nature. It’s a beautiful film frankly. I was very much there on the island. What makes this film cool is that there is no back ground music throughout his five years on the island. So the drama is provided by natural sounds. By the waves of the ocean, the falling of coconuts, the thunder in the sky, the breathing of a man who refuses to give up.
I was reminded of my Anthropology teacher who said: Folks nature isn’t good or bad it just is.
After five years he is rescued. A party is thrown for Chuck. And there is this great moment when he looks at the food table set elaborately for him. There are crabs on the plate and there is a lighter. It all looks so plain and ugly to him. Because he has learned to look at things in a different way. The value of things is determined in his mind by the manner in which he got them. Here in this indoor party with the air conditioner and polite people with pagers and phones he feels different. There is about him a raw cave man confidence. He is unable to make small talk. And that lighter. He picks it up flicking it on and off missing the struggles of a dark blue night on an island that made his life worth fighting for.
See it. Feel it.