A Blast from the Past: Forrest Gump

Riley Wilcosh ’22
Film Critic

Forrest Gump is a big movie. Just saying the name “Forrest Gump” invokes the idea of a true trek and saga of a movie, a movie that you really have to sit down and commit to. A movie that’ll suck you in and take over your whole day.

At least that was my first impression. Until I decided to review it, I’d never actually seen Forrest Gump. I just knew it was a big deal bucket list film, one that had dominated the 1995 Oscars in a year when movies such as The Lion King, Pulp Fiction and The Shawshank Redemption seemed poised to take home gold. It took three of the big five Oscars, winning best picture, best actor and best director.

So I was intrigued. What movie could dethrone one of the best movies of all time, my beloved Pulp Fiction? Such a movie would have to have a truly inspired premise to trump these undisputed classics.

The plot rotates around our protagonist, Forrest Gump (played by Tom Hanks, the role that would rocket him to superstardom). The key to the entire movie is Forrest’s intellect: he’s undeniably slow. He doesn’t fully comprehend social cues and the importance of the things that go on around him. This flaw serves to make Forrest a truly special protagonist, as it gives him a childlike innocence.

He wanders through the 60s and 70s, stumbling through the biggest events of the era. He meets three presidents, goes to Communist China, fights in Vietnam, and exposes Watergate, amongst other historic events. Forrest’s involvement in history makes it truly entertaining.

Forrest is undoubtedly a layered and interesting character. He doesn’t fully comprehend everything that is going on around him, but he still has an immense capacity for emotional depth. That, along with Hanks’s impressive range, allows him to be both a tragic and heart-warming lead while still peppering in moments of comedic relief.

Despite Forrest’s undeniable likability, the setting and cinematography are what I find most endearing. Every set, from the jungles of Vietnam to Forrest’s home in rural Alabama are bright and full of life, and the cinematography highlights this, allowing the backgrounds to speak for themselves while not beating us over the head with artsy and sophisticated shots.

All of this, coupled with the whimsical score by Alan Silvestri makes it accessible and pleasing to anyone, from the casual viewer to the distinguishing critic. This film is deceptive. It makes you think that it’s light and funny and you empathize deeply with the loveable protagonist, but then it sucker-punches you late in the movie as if as a punishment for your naiveté (no spoilers for that here).

I heartily recommend Forrest Gump. Its whimsical nature is enthralling but it has a certain substantive nature to it.


Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures

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