The most striking thing about the music in Robert Zemeckis' desert-island fantasy Cast Away is that there isn't any. At least, not for the first two thirds of the movie. Which is actually a very effective choice for a film about a life stripped to its bare essentials. But the brevity of Alan Silvestri's score must have been a disappointment for the folks at Varese Sarabande, who were left without enough material for a full-length soundtrack album. Consequently, the Cast Away CD is not so much a soundtrack album for that film as a retrospective of Silvestri's 16-year collaboration with director Zemeckis. The album features excerpts from all ten of the Zemeckis/Silvestri pictures, and it reveals the breadth and variety in both style and quality that has characterized the composer's career. The collection begins with ludicrously outdated '80s lite jazz nonsense from Romancing the Stone before moving mercifully on to the John Williams-esque blockbuster brashness of Back to the Future, which remains Silvestri's most famous and memorable score. The collection's other highlights include the '40s jazz swagger of Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, the steady Western power of the cowboy picture Back to the Future, Part III, and the sentimental piano balladry of Silvestri's sole Oscar nominee, Forrest Gump. The equally sentimental piano balladry from Contact shows the composer repeating himself unnecessarily, but his versatility continues to impress throughout the rest of the album -- even during the unlistenable excerpt from Silvestri's Bernard Hermann-wannabe effort for What Lies Beneath. But the most impressive piece in the collection is the title track. Both Zemeckis and Silvestri demonstrate remarkable restraint in scoring Cast Away, with the director choosing to withhold music from several scenes in the film -- particularly those that feature strandee Tom Hanks staring longingly at photographs of Helen Hunt -- that would have been scored with manipulative music in almost any other movie. Silvestri's theme isn't introduced until Hanks finally escapes from his island, and then it is stunning in large part because of the simplicity of the melody. Slow, steady, characterized by long notes and unusual moments of silence, it opens emotional floodgates in ways that a more expressive piece would not. The excerpt included on the CD is the seven-minute end title theme, which boldly intersperses the music with several long segments of softly crashing waves. It is an exceptional achievement for director and scorist alike and a fitting culmination to this summary of their collaboration.
AllMusic Review by Evan Cater