Desert islands are not easy. Empty ones are positively dull. How do you make a movie about a man who spends four years alone on a rock without boring the audience to death?

First you entice a big name. Chances are you'll care more about whether Tom Hanks lives or dies than some hunky unknown, although that is debatable. Bring in Robert Zemeckis, who made Forrest Gump, and maybe the chemistry will work second time around.

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Spend the first three-quarters of an hour introducing the characters. Hanks is a dedicated executive for an international courier. Helen Hunt is his girlfriend. He cares about his job and shows symptoms of workaholism. She's nervous of marriage, because her first failed.

On a routine flight to somewhere over there, the plane comes down in the Pacific. Everyone on board is killed, or so they think back home. In fact, Hanks escapes with a life raft and ends up on the island.

Phase Two: survival. They do this rather well. Hanks is useless at first and slowly begins to learn a little. There doesn't seem to be enough wildlife around for a square meal and his fishing skills are non-existent. It takes him a while to realise that those things falling from trees are coconuts and even longer to find a way of breaking them open.

Four years later, he's skinnier, with a Ben Gunn chin wig and a punctured football for a friend. He decides to build a raft and make a dash for it, not that he has a clue where he is, nor how far from the shipping lanes. You wonder why he hasn't thought of this before.

The film doesn't cheat on the whole and it is to Hanks's credit that you are still interested after two-and-a-bit hours. Phase Three is apres-island, which can only be guessed at, although you'll need a sweet tooth to fully appreciate it.

Reviewed on: 24 Jan 2001
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Cast Away packshot
Tom Hanks plays a modern-day Robinson Crusoe stranded on a desert island with a punctured football for a friend.
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Director: Robert Zemeckis

Writer: William Broyles Jr

Starring: Tom Hanks, Helen Hunt, Nick Searcy

Year: 2000

Runtime: 143 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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