For me, "Forrest Gump" was easily one of the most annoying films of the '90s. It waded straight into some of the most turbulent events in recent American history and came back with absolutely nothing to say about them. Given this, it was hard to get excited about the reunion of the "Gump" creative combo, star Tom Hanks and director Robert Zemeckis, in their new film "Cast Away."

Sometimes, though, it's great to be proven wrong: This one ain't half bad. Actually, "Cast Away" is more reminiscent of Zemeckis' "Contact," which showed the director to be brilliant when working as a visual storyteller (remember the opening radio-signals-into-space sequence?) In "Cast Away," his purely cinematic sequences are equally powerful, even virtuosic. But, again as in "Contact," this impact is diluted by some maudlin moralizing that strains to be profound. Fortunately, in "Cast Away," that's pretty much left to the coda, while the first two hours keep you enrapt.

"Cast Away" is your standard Robinson Crusoe situation, with Hanks getting stranded on an isolated, uninhabited South Pacific atoll. There's a nice twist in that Hanks' character, Chuck, is a FedEx manager who is a willing slave to the clock. Jetting back and forth between continents, he doesn't even have the time to properly propose to his love, Kelly (Helen Hunt), dropping a ring on her in the car before hopping onto another flight. This one he doesn't come back from, though; the flight veers off course over the Pacific, and goes down in some heavy weather, in what is undoubtedly the most terrifyingly realistic plane crash sequence ever (so don't expect to see this as an in-flight film).