It’s been a long while, but I’ve got me a What-If…
One of my favorite movies is Cast Away. an early Aughts tale of an executive who survives a jetliner crash and has to live on a desert island for four years. Some people hate the movie because of its FedEx advertisement nature — FedEx is everywhere in this film and it gets to the point where the product placement is unbearable. Even though it’s not true product-placement as-so-much brand name use on props. It gives a little more reality than if Chuck Noland had been an employee of the oft-used-in-film Pacific Courier shipping company.
At any rate, I enjoy the film. the emotional stuff and the open “where do I go from here?” end to the film.
I got bored the other day and started tooling around IMDB. I’ve looked at their “Trivia” section for Cast Away in years previous and just wanted to see things again. Some of the facts seemed to have been changed, some of them seemed to be deleted (I do recall hearing that there was a different ending to the film originally that did not test well and was replaced. Hearsay and speculation on my part because I cannot find reference to this on the web).
One piece of cynical trivia that was on that page, however, caught my eye, and spoilers are ahead for those who have not seen the movie.
Chuck keeps, and never opens, a FedEx box with an Angel art print on it. The box had washed ashore from his crashed jetliner. He keeps that package the entire time he is on the island and during his escape from the island. He ultimately delivers it to the place where it was destined.
The package, without ever knowing the contents, drove Chuck Noland to keep on going. Keep breathing. He never cited that, but it’s the truth. The package was a visual reminder of salvation.
But it was also Chuck’s saviour if he opened the damn thing.
Director Robert Zemekis has repeated over and over again what the package’s contents actually were… And like I say, it’s ultimately cynical when you hear it: A water proof, solar powered satellite phone.
By not opening the package, Chuck transitioned from a career-orientated, overweight busy-body to a bare bones human, content to just be alive. The package itself is a salvation device in a figurative sense. He found himself by getting away from the things of man. But if he opened it… It would be his salvation as well.
And that’s the what-if: What if Chuck Noland had opened the Angel package while he had been stuck on the deserted island?
Forget the arty context that I cited about transitions in being and what not. Wouldn’t it be a huge adventure of a movie just to be rescued from an isolated, south Pacific island? Not that someone stumbles across you, but that miraculously type of escape?
I see it like this: It might not be in the first week or two, or three that Chuck opens the package. Or maybe it is… He finds the product and has the EUREKA! moment, knowing he’s saved… But how the hell do you operate the thing? Do you have to have a credit card in order to use it/sign up for it for the first time? This alone could cause a complication, if not stopping Chuck dead in his tracks.
And then, the bigger issue: You get the phone to work, you get it charged up and ready to go and… who the hell do you call? He’s going to try calling his girlfriend, Kelly Fears, to assure her that he’s alive… But that brings up another trivial issue that would effect things: The time difference between his deserted island location and Memphis, Tennessee (where she lives).
That, and the amount of time between the plane crashing and Chuck opening the package. Kelly moved and married. It’s not like she keeps her same phone number the entire duration of the film. But for a time – she will be where she was and be reachable…
Even calling his girlfriend doesn’t necessarily get the wheels moving in getting home. And when those wheels do start moving, there is the story of the entire rescue operation, of Chuck’s return to society and his return home. Just what happens to Chuck if he were rescued by way of that satellite phone? It’s a movie all unto itself. An event like that changes people, and we ultimately saw that in the closing chapters of the film. But just how much does Chuck change if he wasn’t stuck there the full four years? Just what happens to him if he opens that damn package? Does he still ultimately lose Kelly somewhere down the line (divorce)? Does he fear flying once he returns home and demands a job ont he groudn from that point forward?
Really, what if?