Cast Away stars Tom Hanks, whose name cannot be uttered without thinking of golden statuettes. Now he's reteaming with his Forrest Gump director, Robert Zemeckis, in a story he developed with screenwriter William Broyles. Hanks plays Chuck Noland, a FedEx efficiency genius. When his plane crashes in the South Pacific, Chuck spends the next four years on a deserted island, where the word rush does not apply. The movie could have sucked. Never mind that Hanks dropped fifty pounds to do the role — Academy voters frequently mistake weight swings for Acting! But Cast Away grows on you. Zemeckis dodges the island cliches. No sharks, no native babes, no Survivor cameos from Rich or Rudy. Not even a musical score, Hollywood's laziest trick to steer our emotions. Just the sounds of water, wind, insects and Chuck talking to a volleyball he names Wilson.
Sound dull? It isn't. Hanks conducts a master class in acting by showing a man losing his sense of himself in fractional gradations. Only the ending, involving Kelly (Helen Hunt), the lover Chuck left behind, is a crock. Until then, Cast Away is funny, fierce and heartfelt. Oscar or not, that does deserve your consideration.