Adapted from Winston Groom’s 1986 novel, Forrest Gump tells the story of a man with learning difficulties who happens to be present at some of the most historical events in American history. Told largely, and expertly, by Tom Hanks’s Gump as he remembers his life whilst waiting for a bus, the story is nothing short of charming. His endeavours see him go to war, become a famous football player, worldwide ping pong sensation as well as meeting some of the most iconic figures of the 20th century.
Robert Zemeckis, forming a partnership that would see him go on to work with Hanks again in Polar Express and Cast Away, expertly directs the Oscar winning film. Proving the versatility of Tom Hanks, Forrest Gump is impressively compelling. Giving a performance that manages to avoid patronising its protagonist, its hard to imagine a Forrest Gump featuring any of its other contenders – worryingly John Travolta and Chevvy Chase were both considered for the role.
Even when Gump is confronted with the grimier aspects of life, including prostitutes, aids, anti-establishment groups and drugs, his childish naivety is both enjoyable and easy to relate to. The fondness for his mother (Sally Field) is reinforced by her regurgitated words. Instead of making his character annoyingly pathetic, Hanks injects both credibility and likeability into the role.
The entire supporting cast are applaudable. Gump’s lifelong love for Jenny (Robin Wright) is echoed throughout by his constant thinking about her whilst Mykelti Williamson’s Bubba Blue provides Gump with a true best friend who inspires Gump to realise his dreams. His devotion to his friends and family even manages to overcome war veteran Lt. Dan Taylor (Gary Sinise)’s frosty exterior. Among the other faces you may also notice a very youthful pre-Sixth Sense Haley Joel Osment.
Although he may lack IQ points, Gump certainly draws attention to areas where other people lack. His trust and companionship is commendable and, thanks to Hank’s southern drawl, he’s one of cinema’s most memorable characters. The use of real historic footage provides the film with a credibility and light-heartedness that neatly juxtaposes the harsh realities encountered by Gump himself. The idea that he taught Presley his recognisable dance moves is believable whilst seeing him sit next to John Lennon is a highlight. It’s enjoyable seeing him tire of meeting president after president as is his interruption of the tense tone in Little Rock.
Sentimental and touching, Forrest Gump is hugely likeable despite its long run time. An impressive modern classic that’s amassed critical acclaim, it’s not one to miss.
Watch this if you liked: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Shawshank Redemption, Green Mile.