When Tom Hanks released "Cast Away" in 2000, he was all alone in more ways than one.
Playing a man stuck for years on a remote island, the Oscar winner was helping to bring back a genre, the so-called stranded film, that hadn't had a major entry in five years (since Hanks' own "Apollo 13").
Beginning Friday, the actor can be seen in another nautically-themed marooned movie, the Somali-hijacking tale "Captain Phillips.” Only this time Hanks' story of isolation has plenty of company.
The stranded film, which Hollywood has returned to intermittently since the form came into its own in the mid-20th century, is back with a vengeance. “Captain Phillips,” directed by Paul Greengrass, is one of nearly a dozen movies this fall -- including Alfonso Cuaron's current hit "Gravity" and an assortment of upcoming releases -- about a person marooned far from where (or who) they want to be.
Unlike many past iterations, characters in this go-round are fighting not only for their physical survival -- though that’s often the case -- but against emotional, racial and even spiritual forces. The result is a complex spin on a familiar genre, and one that may offer a telling cultural snapshot.
Among the upcoming releases with a clear-cut stranded concept are Steve McQueen's antebellum drama "12 Years a Slave," Spike Lee's action remake "Oldboy," about a man held captive in a motel room for 20 years, and J.C. Chandor’s man-at-sea tale “All Is Lost.” (These films, it should be said, follow similarly themed movies, such as the shipwrecked drama “Life of Pi” last year and mountain-climber-rescue pic “127 Hours” in 2010.)
More figuratively, the definition of stranded cinema could be expanded to includes tales of spiritual and emotional isolation, in which heroes function as castaways even when they’re surrounded by crowds of people.
That list: Ben Stiller's loner dramedy "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," Ridley Scott's morality-play thriller "The Counselor," Jason Reitman’s literary drama “Labor Day” (about a woman cut off from the outside world by an escaped convict and her own haunting memories) and Spike Jonze’s piece of techno-whimsy, "Her."