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Time and eternity, Boxes and hearts, Fear and control

He lives in "a world on time" and yet does not know how to discern the time.
He lives in a world of unopened boxes, not realizing he has become one.
He lives in a world he controls until suddenly he is Cast Away.


The movie opens at a crossroads in Texas, as a Federal Express truck drives up to a farm (the farm looks like an island on a sea of land). The sign over the entrance of this farm reads "Dick and Bettina". The driver picks up a package that has pink wings painted on it.We get a glimpse of the female artist who is listening to Elvis Presley's "Heartbreak Hotel".  The song changes to "All Shook Up", as she tells the driver she'll have another package on Thursday.

The music picks up tempo, as the location shifts to Russia where Fed Ex delivers the package to her husband.  He is obviously having an extramarital affair.

Act One - Chuck Noland

Setting aside the mysterious couple, Dick and Bettina, the movie now introduces the main character, Chuck Noland.  A FedEx employee in Russia to "make things work", he is giving a speech about time to a group of Russian workers.

Chuck stresses three points as his interpreter shouts his words in Russian:


Time rules over us without mercy (rather than a God who rules with mercy).


We live or die by the clock (rather than by the grace of a Sovereign God).


Never turn your back on the clock or commit the sin of losing track of time. It is a pulsating, relentless taskmaster (rather than a loving, compassionate God). 

Chuck had mailed a package from the United States to be delivered to him while he is in Russia. The package contained a clock and it showed that it took eighty-seven hours to arrive in Russia. He explains that eighty-seven hours is an eternity. Man's time versus God's time. This is the main theme of the movie. The interpreter tells the group that Chuck had even stolen a bicycle to deliver packages. He will do whatever it takes to serve this harsh taskmaster which is time.

On the flight home, the stewardess shows compassion for Chuck's friend, Stan. Stan's wife has been diagnosed with cancer. Chuck reveals how disconnected he is. He tells Stan he'll get the number of a good doctor, and "We'll get this fixed." Life is just a series of problems to be solved, not truly lived.

Chuck Noland lives in such bondage to time that he can't even schedule time for a dental appointment. Exhausted when he returns home, he sleeps during what little free time he has with Kelly, his girlfriend. His pager goes off during Christmas dinner (as Elvis sings "Blue Christmas" in the background). He and Kelly must check their appointment books to try and coordinate his days off, and must hurriedly open their Christmas gifts to each other in the car on the way to the airport. Chuck gives Kelly a journal and pager in order to record her life in the world of time. She gives him a family heirloom pocket watch with her picture inside. He says, "I will keep it on Memphis time - Kelly time" (there is one time for the heart).

There is one more gift, a small box, that there is no time to open. The box is symbolic of Chuck's heart, so small because it has shrunk in a world run by time. Kelly is "terrified", not sure she wants to be married to a man who wears a pager. His is a life of control, hers  is a life of fear; there is no connection. As Chuck leaves he tells her "I'll be right back". This signifies man's arrogance, thinking his times are in his hands (James 4:13-15).

While on board the plane, Chuck takes out the pocket watch and  removes his wrist watch while in the restroom. He has set time aside. And then -EXPLOSION!! Explosions come into our lives in many ways and show us how fragile our times really are. He is not wearing a lifejacket as the other passengers are. In an instant, he makes a choice between the lifejacket and the pocket watch. He grabs hold of the watch. By choosing which is more precious to him, he takes a step from bondage toward love. 

The sounds of the crash are profound. The lifeboat bobbing in water is an incredible picture of man in the hand of a Sovereign God (Psalm 139). The lifeboat is Christ. There is darkness; then he hits the rock island (a symbolic picture of lost man who hits the rock of Christ). Now the only sound is the noise of the rain.

On the Island Part One:
The first thing Chuck removes is his pager, which has filled with water and then the pocket watch that has stopped. Time, as he knew, it has ended. 

Instead of a pulsating, relentless taskmaster, he is in the hands of the Sovereign God revealing Himself through His creation (the stars, the sounds of the surf, the beauty of the island). Only here in solitude and silence can Chuck Noland's heart come to life.

He picks up Fed Ex boxes that have washed ashore and sorts them, still clinging to the life that was. Chuck still is not ready to open them or himself. 

As he explores the island, he gets his first view of the summit and the tree where he will come to a crossroad of his life. Immediately at his feet is the Fed Ex box with gold wings and three blue bands. One scene prefigures hopelessness and death, the other hope and life. He climbs to the summit and surveys this new world. The view is immense and profound. 

This is a true picture of fallen man. Isolated, an island unto himself, surrounded by waves of fear. He sees the body floating and rushes in desperation hoping to find someone; already the disconnection is setting in. The dead body is an eye opening view of what death really looks like. When he buries the dead man, all he can say is, " So that's it". That is all a lost man can say. He puts on the dead man's shoes. They do not fit; they are not "his shoes" . To the outside world he has died. They will bury him in a box, but to God he is very much alive. 

His first attempt to escape the island on his rubber lifeboat represents man's attempts to get off his isolated island by his own strength. Waves of fear pound him and brutally beat him back, keeping him in place. Fear is the atmosphere of the fallen world. Only after much pain and failure does he open the boxes. 

Sometimes our greatest afflictions can be the very thing God uses to open our hearts to Him. Up to this point, Chuck Noland has been an unopened box. Now he opens the Fed Ex boxes and, in so doing, finds things that will give him life. Most significant of all is the volleyball. He leaves one box unopened, the box with wings; this is his hope.

He tries to build a fire and pierces his palm,. Then throws the ball in pain. It is his own blood out of a pierced hand that brings forth a companion. After he makes the fire he says," I have created fire; I have made fire". He is still god of his world.

In the cave he is recording his story on the walls, with handprints and drawings of Wilson, wings, and Kelly. This shows how man has been created to live "in a story". Even in isolation, he is compelled to tell his story.

On the Island Part Two - Four Years Later:
The first scene of him after these four years contrasts sharply with how he was when he arrived on the island. Four years represents his wilderness experience. (Moses wandered in the desert for 40 years, Christ was tempted in the wilderness for 40 days). Chuck Noland comes out of the wilderness stronger, not weaker. Long hair and beards are always symbolic of strength. He is now able to spear a fish on the first try, rather than running around splashing without success. He is lean in body, no longer flabby, and even his voice has changed. 

After the storm, light shines in on his calendar and the box "world on time". It is exactly four years from the plane crash.  It is time to leave. He awakens to the noise of a plastic port-a-john that has washed up on the beach. The winds of change have brought him wings (Psalm 104:4). 

He now knows how to discern the time. March and April are the best time for off shore breezes. Now time is not a taskmaster, but an ally. He works with it, instead of struggling against it. In his old world he had no time, now he tells Wilson that "we have time, we have time."

In order to get thirty more feet of rope, he must go back to the summit. Here he faces fear, as he pulls up the figure he carved in order to test the tree for his attempted suicide. This is a beautiful scene. As he pulls it up, we see it is a cross figure. The cross took his place and, in so doing, gave him life.

In the cave he gets angry with Wilson and throws him out; then crying he goes searching for him and finds him. This demonstrates that his heart has been able to connect.  He then repaints Wilson's face with his own blood. Chuck prepares his raft, with " wings" painted on the plastic sail. Between March and April the winds change. This is Resurrection time. He now makes the same attempt to get off the island (isolation) as he did four years earlier. This time he is successful because he does not go in his own strength (oars) but in God's (with wings and winds).

Off the Island:
Once he makes it past the greatest wave into the open sea, the music begins. This is a poignant, emotional scene. He and Wilson look back on the island as it fades in the mist. The island represents the isolation and desolation man must come to, where he dies to self and becomes alive to God. 

During the night a whale comes alongside the raft. Chuck hears it, sees it spout water, and then watches it surface. One large eye opens and looks at him. This is very symbolic. A storm comes; the plastic wings fly off. They return to heaven; we never see them come down. Wilson floats away. You hear the whale, and he sprays Nolan's face awakening him to the fact that Wilson is lost. Chuck goes after Wilson, but cannot reach him. This is a scene of the breaking of his heart. When a heart can be broken, it can love. This whole vignette is very moving, combined with the music, and sunlight on the water (signifying the glory of God). He releases his oars into the water. Chuck Noland has totally surrendered.

In the next scene, the whale comes back and sprays Noland's face again, awakening him this time to draw his attention to the passing ship. The whale has watched over him and awakened him at the right moments. This is an incredible picture of an omniscient God who watches over His children.

Return to a World on Time Four weeks later:
On the plane flying home, his friend Stan tells Chuck they had a funeral for him. They put in his coffin a cell phone, beeper, and Elvis CD's which were the things that represented his life. Chuck's feet are resting on a rug that says "Fed Ex" with a border around it. No longer is he another unopened box.  Now he is opened and outside the box. His feet are on the box. He apologizes to his friend saying, "I should have been there for you." He is no longer disconnected.

At the Fed Ex party, employees talk about his being resurrected from the dead. When he goes to Kelly's house, she tells him that after the crash everything got put on hold (such as her doctorate). He apologizes to her and says, "I never should have gotten on that plane, out of that car".

While talking with Stan, Chuck explains how he attempted suicide while on the island. He realized he couldn't even kill himself; he had power over nothing. Then the feeling "like a warm blanket" came over him, and he knew he had to stay alive, to keep breathing even with no reason to hope. His logic said he would never see Kelly again. His logic was proven wrong when the tide came in and brought him a sail. The feeling like a warm blanket is the presence of God who is beyond all our logic. He gives us what we need (a sail) according to His timetable. Our response to the warm blanket is trust. Now Chuck is able to say, "Who knows what the tide will bring in tomorrow. "

The movie ends where it began, at the crossroads. Chuck delivers the still unopened package with the gold wings and writes the note "this box saved my life". The sign over the farm/ranch is now minus the name Dick. Back at the crossroads, Bettina tells him he looks lost and gives him directions. The road she is on is white, the other three are dark. The movie's final scene ends with Chuck seeing the wings on her truck.

Further Notes:
His name is Chuck, a diminutive of Charles, which means "man".
Her name is Bettina, a diminutive of Elizabeth, which means "pledged to God". Put that together on the sign!!


Book of Ecclesiastes (especially Eccclesiastes 3:1-12)
Psalm 104

No Man is an Island
.no man is an island, entire of itself;
every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less,
.. any man's death diminishes me, 
for I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.
                                            John Donne 

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