Dir: Robert Zemeckis. US. 2000. 143 mins.

Prod cos: ImageMovers, Playtone. US dist: 20th Century Fox. Int'l dist: DreamWorks SKG. Exec prod: Joan Bradshaw. Prods: Steve Starkey, Tom Hanks, Robert Zemeckis, Jack Rapke. Scr: William Broyles Jr. DoP: Don Burgess. Prod des: Rick Carter. Ed: Arthur Schmidt. Mus: Alan Silvestri. Main cast: Tom Hanks, Helen Hunt, Nick Searcy.

Audience-pleasing filmmaker Robert Zemeckis strikes gold again with Cast Away, an intriguing saga of survival and redemption which will be a huge worldwide box office hit and win a slew of Oscar nominations.

More mature and thought-provoking than other Zemeckis multiplex fare such as Forrest Gump or Contact, the film is still awash with the simplistic symbolism and sledgehammer message-giving of those pictures, but then no-one said Zemeckis was Ingmar Bergman. Moviegoers of every age and nationality will love it, and it may even tap a Titanic-esque zeitgeist nerve that will draw in non-regular patrons.

Of course it couldn't possibly work without Tom Hanks' admirable performance. Off the screen for just a few shots, Hanks is nothing less than awesome as the quintessential everyman, struggling to survive while fully aware that he has no hope of leaving the island on which he is deserted.

It's the ultimate 'what if' story. Dedicated Federal Express employee Chuck Noland is paged on Christmas Eve to get on a plane and cross the world with a shipment of deliveries. He hastily leaves his girlfriend Kelly (Helen Hunt) in Memphis with a promise - 'I'll be right back' - and boards the plane.

Four years later, he returns to Kelly a different man - physically and emotionally transformed. In between Hanks and Zemeckis take us on his journey - his plane crashed, washed up on a deserted island, he has to learn to survive. And survive he does with just a handful of FedEx packages and an endless supply of coconuts.

It's a dramatic challenge but one which works, not just because the trailer has informed us that he returns to Memphis so we are expecting that outcome, but also because Hanks is so human and persistent and determined that we are thrilled - as he is - about the smallest of achievements. The return to civilisation sequences are disappointing after the intense wordlessness of the island. It's then that Hanks starts explaining his conclusions to a friend. He needn't have.

Just as the film gets conventional again, Zemeckis brings in a saccharine musical theme by Alan Silvestri. Until that point, two hours in, there is no music. His hero is all alone without even a score.