Tom Hanks does a superb job of carrying “Cast Away” all by himself for about two-thirds of its running time, but isn’t much helped by additional characters in the opening and closing sequences. Here is a strong and simple story surrounded by needless complications, and flawed by a last act that first disappoints us and then ends on a note of forced whimsy.
Hanks plays Chuck Noland, a time-obsessed Federal Express executive who troubleshoots all over the world, arranging hurry-up package transfers in Moscow before flying off to solve problems in Asia. Helen Hunt plays his fiancee, Kelly Frears, who tries her best to accept a man ruled by a beeper. She comes from clock-watching stock, and for Christmas gives Chuck her grandfather’s railroad watch.