Forrest Gump (1994)
Starring: Tom Hanks, Robin Wright, Gary Sinise
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Released: July 6, 1994
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Forest Gump has long been one of my favorite movies. I first saw it as a youngster, and immediately connected with the main character of the movie on a deep level. Admittedly, this might tell you more about me than it does about the movie. Looking back now though, I will defend my love for this movie and the character of Forest Gump.
I’ll admit one of my biases right here up front. I like my main characters to be sympathetic, understandable, and just generally good decent human beings, in the vein of your classic Jimmy Stewart archetype. Forrest Gump is just such a man. He always makes the correct moral decision as far as he can understand and is an utterly selfless individual in all respects.
I’m also a sucker for historical movies, history being my second (or maybe first) obsession behind movies, and this movie could basically be described as “The History of the United States as told by Forest Gump…” Everything from Elvis, to George Wallace, the moon landing, Vietnam, Watergate etc. are shown here from the perspective of those who lived through the events, and through the rarely seen perspective of someone who lacks the intellectual context to decipher said events into anything beyond a kind of simplistic childlike understanding. For instance, he relates to the tragedy of the Kennedys’ assassinations by lamenting the fact that he never had a brother… “Must be hard being brothers”… a similar device is used in describing the death of MLK later on.
The story of the movie is framed in a non-linear manner; with Gump telling his life story in flashbacks to various people he meets on a bench while waiting for a bus.
The story itself catches up with the narration near the 3/4s point of the movie, at which point the rest of the movie is a straight linear format. One element I admire about the movie is the giant scope of genres it encompasses all it once.
Forest Gump is at times a straight biopic, a comedy, a philosophical drama, a war movie, and as mentioned, a historical period piece. With all of those elements to juggle it would be easy for the movie to feel like a tangled disconnected mess, but I generally find its flow to be very easy to watch, even with the near three hour running time. Tom Hanks loses himself in the role of Gump, completely anchoring every emotion in the simple emotional framework of this man with an IQ of 75.
Gary Sinise also deserves a lot of credit for his role as Lieutenant Dan. Sinise has some of the most emotionally demanding scenes in the movie, such as his berating of Gump in the hospital for robbing him of his “destiny” to die in combat, or the breathtaking scene where he rocks back and forth at the top of a mast in the middle of a Hurricane cursing God and challenging him to sink the ship that he’s on.
Of course what most people remember from the movie is the dialogue. This is one of those movies that have been ruined for many people due to the “over quoting” many of its lines have received. “Life is a box of chocolates…” “Run Forest, Run” “Stupid is as stupid does” and finally “That’s all I have to say about that…”