Saturday, October 1, 2011

Forrest Gump Review

Forrest Gump (1994)

Most of what I hear about this movie amongst my friends on this website is general negative sentiment about this stealing the Oscar from Shawshank Redemption/Pulp Fiction, take your pick. I have not seen Shawshank Redemption or Pulp Fiction, so I cannot be a fair judge with regards to whether or not Forrest Gump "stole" the Oscar, but I can be a fair judge to the movie itself, and I must say that I liked Forrest Gump a lot. It may be sentimental, and I can see how that would be off-putting to some, and it was indeed off-putting to me at times as well. However, Forrest Gump has great performances, great special effects (minus the CGI feather at the beginning and the end), and a great story.


The entire film takes place in flashback, as Forrest (Tom Hanks) is telling his story to various people at the bus stop. It essentially starts from the beginning, when Forrest was a little boy living in Alabama with his mother (Sally Field). This part of the movie chronicles Forrest's young life in school and it takes us to his first encounter with Jenny Curran (Hannah Hill, later Robyn Wright) the film's female lead. Forrest and Jenny become best friends and Forrest finds out (although he misassumes what is actually happening) that Jenny's father abuses her, and Jenny eventually goes to live with her grandmother. There's also some stuff with the visitors that stayed at their house, including one young man with a guitar that Forrest taught to do a certain pelvic thrust who ended up making it big.

The next part of the film is Forrest in late high school and college, where he becomes a football star. He becomes one after running onto a football field to escape some bullies. That's one of the instances in this movie which coined the popular term "run Forrest run". He's a football star, and after he graduates from college, he is approached by a general and enlists in the Army. There, he meets his other friend Bubba (Mykelti Williams) and Lieutenant Dan (Gary Sinise in an Oscar-nominated role) and in the film's crowning moment of glory, Ferris saves Lieutenant Dan's life as well as the lives of several soldiers when they are in Vietnam, but he is unable to save Bubba's.

In response to a promise he made to Bubba, Forrest starts the Bubba-Gump shrimp company, where he becomes a shrimp boat captain with Lieutenant Dan as his first mate. There's one other thing with Lieutenant Dan. Forrest may have saved Lieutenant Dan's life, but it was at the expense of his legs and one of the major special-effects marvels of this movie that was rewarded was being able to digitally erase Gary Sinise's legs from the knees down. When a hurricane hits while Dan and Forrest are on their boat, it would appear that Lieutenant Dan makes his peace with his condition and his raving depression. Next time we see Dan, he is engaged to be married and walking on new titanium legs.

After his adventures in shrimping, Forrest moves back to Greenbow Alabama, where his life intersects with Jenny's once again. You see, while Forrest was off in Vietnam and becoming a shrimp boat captain, Jenny was being a hippie, dating many abusive men, doing a ton of drugs, and experimenting in generally self-destructive behaviours. After she pops in and out of his life once again, Forrest just feels the need one day to start running. He starts running and he just doesn't stop. He runs for three years, gains a national following and reputation and then he finally returns to Greenbow, where he meets up with Jenny (that's what he was waiting for the bus for).


Forrest and Jenny stick together this time and they eventually marry. Even though Jenny has sorted herself out and became a nurse, we learn that she is sick with some unknown virus (it was the eighties though, what do you think it was?) and she eventually dies an untimely death. The last scene we see in the movie is Forrest seeing his son (played by a very young Haley Joel Osment) go on the school bus. The message of the movie is kind of problematic, because it is that things will just fall into your lap no matter how hard you work to pursue them. However, there is a good message in that you shouldn't let being disabled (either physically or mentally) prevent you from living a full life. and that is certainly a message to be followed.


For a movie that covers as much ground as this movie has to, it covers said ground extremely well. The movie goes through a lot of events in American history, from the rock-and-roll age of the fifties to the Vietnam war to the Black Panthers to the Hippie Movement. The film spans about forty years and shows Forrest's life through those years. The music also has a big part of that, the soundtrack being composed of hits from those individual eras. The writing is decent, with a few memorable quotes from it, like "Run Forrest Run", "My mama says life is like a box of chocolates: you never know what you're going to get" and "My name's Forrest, Forrest Gump". The rest of the dialogue is decently written and occasionally quite sweet, and it won Best Adapted Screenplay that year (I haven't seen any of the other nominees so I can't say whether or not it deserved it). I haven't read the book, but the story is well-thought out alongside the script itself.

If there is one Oscar that deserved to be won from Forrest Gump, it is Tom Hanks' award for Best Actor (which he had won the year before). Tom Hanks is one of the best actors of all time and he gives an absolutely amazing performance as the titular character of this movie. The title of the movie is Forrest Gump, so naturally, the performance of Tom Hanks (or any of the other choices they had for Forrest) would make or break the movie. Thankfully, Tom Hanks is a great actor so his performance made the movie. His performance as Forrest is one of the best I have seen in any movie and this might be Hanks' most famous role, outside Cast Away, Toy Story, and maybe Saving Private Ryan. Regardless, he has been immortalized in the character and this performance will be remembered for years to come.

The film also has a good supporting cast, with Gary Sinise taking the award for second-best performance as Lieutentant Dan, which got him an Oscar nomination. Having only seen Sinise on CSI: New York prior to this, I was pleasantly surprised by his performance, which is one of considerable depth and grace. Robyn Wright plays Jenny and she starts out okay, but Wright's performance improved as Jenny's problems got worse. A terrible thing to say, but it is okay. Sally Field was great as Mrs. Gump, but the only performance I had an issue with was Mykelti Williams as Bubba. He wasn't bad, but he was kind of annoying and he was the weakest performer. Needless to say, the film had strong actors and used them well (for the most part).

The special effects were very good, incorporating Tom Hanks into the archival footage and magically erasing Gary Sinise's legs, and the cinematography is good as well. All in all, Forrest Gump may not be a perfect movie, and it has its moments of oversentimentality and a problematic message, but it is generally a good movie. I would encourage anybody who has not yet seen this movie to see it. Forrest Gump is probably one of the best movies of the last twenty years. Maybe after watching Pulp Fiction and Shawshank Redemption, my opinion will change, but for now, Forrest Gump is a modern classic and a movie everybody should see.

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