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    In 1995, Chuck Noland (Tom Hanks) is a time-obsessed systems analyst, who travels worldwide resolving productivity problems at FedEx depots. He is in a long-term relationship with Kelly Frears (Helen Hunt), with whom he lives in Memphis, Tennessee. Although the couple wants to get married, Chuck's busy schedule interferes with their relationship. A Christmas with relatives is interrupted by Chuck being summoned to resolve a problem in Malaysia. Chuck was actually going to propose to Kelly on New Year's Eve, having given her the ring box as a Christmas present with instructions to not open it till he returned home from his trip.

    Flying through a violent storm, his plane crashes into the Pacific Ocean. Chuck is able to escape the sinking plane and is saved by an inflatable raft, but in the process, the raft's emergency locator transmitter breaks off. He clings to the raft, loses consciousness and floats all night before being washed up on an island.

    After he awakens, he explores the island and soon discovers that it is uninhabited. Several FedEx packages from the crashed plane wash up on the shore, as well as the corpse of one of the pilots, named Albert Miller (which he buries). He initially tries to signal for rescue and makes an escape attempt with the remnants of his raft, but he cannot pass the powerful surf. He searches for food, water, shelter and opens the packages, finding a number of potentially useful items. He leaves one package, with a pair of wings painted on it, unopened.

    During a first attempt to make fire, Chuck receives a deep wound to his hand. In anger he throws several objects, including a Wilson volleyball from one of the packages. The stain of blood from Chuck's bloody hand has a subtle appearance of a face and Chuck fondly names it "Wilson" and begins talking to it.

    Four years later, Chuck is dramatically thinner, bearded, his hair is longer and he is wearing a loincloth. He has become adept at spearing fish and making fires. He also has regular conversations and arguments with Wilson. It is revealed that he has, several times, contemplated suicide, going so far as to make a test dummy which he had tossed off a cliff in order to plan the act.

    After a large plastic section from a portable toilet washes up on the island, Chuck uses it as a sail in the construction of a raft. After spending some time building and stocking the raft and deciding when the weather conditions will be optimal, he launches, using the sail to overcome the powerful surf. After some time on the ocean, a storm nearly tears his raft apart. The following day, Wilson falls from the raft and is lost, leaving Chuck overwhelmed by grief and loss. Later, he is found drifting by a passing cargo ship.

    Upon returning to civilization, Chuck learns that he has long been given up for dead; his family and friends held a funeral and Kelly has since married Chuck's dentist and has a daughter. After reuniting with Kelly, the pair profess their love for each other but, realizing a future together would be impossible due to her commitment to her family, they part. Kelly gives Chuck the keys to the car they had once shared.

    Chuck then travels out into the country to return the unopened FedEx package to its sender. A new Wilson volley ball sits in the front seat next to him. The house at the address is empty, so he leaves the package at the door with a note saying; "This package saved my life. Chuck Noland." He then departs and stops at a remote crossroads. A woman passing by in a pickup truck stops to explain where each road leads. As she drives away, Chuck notices an illustration on the back of her pickup truck that is similar to the one on the parcel. Chuck is left looking down each road. The camera focuses on his face, as he smiles while looking toward the departing woman in the truck.