Captain Phillips movie poster
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Captain Phillips
Captain Phillips movie poster

Captain Phillips Movie Review

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Welcome back, Tom Hanks. After nearly a decade of critical or financial disappointments for the revered actor, Hanks delivers a terrific performance in the suspenseful Captain Phillips, directed by the reliable Paul Greengrass.

Based on a true story ripped from the headlines, Captain Phillips follows a guy named Captain Phillips, who commands a cargo ship that is hijacked off the coast of Somalia. The crewmen manage to drive the four pirates off the ship, but not before they take a certain title character hostage in a lifeboat. The stakes are heightened when the U.S. Navy sends three ships to ensure the boat does not make the Somali coast, no matter what the cost.

Captain Phillips is a high-paced, energetic and absorbing thriller that reminded me a lot of Greengrass's overlooked 2006 drama United 93, in that the director manages to establish a high level of tension and excitement despite most people knowing how the story ends in advance. Though Captain Phillips has a less depressing ending, the movie follows a similar formula: Greengrass shows how the drama unfolds from multiple perspectives, include those of the crew, the pirates and the military.

The movie works largely because of Greengrass's masterful direction, but Tom Hanks gives one of his best performances in years. Hanks carries the film through the first half but elevates to a new level in the final act, emphasized by an emotional final scene that nearly brought tears to my eyes (I don't  cry in movies). I'm not convinced it's a performance that will land him an Oscar nomination, but it's worth consideration.

Also impressive is first-time actor Barkhad Abdi, who plays the pirate captain Muse. His performance is nuanced and complex as his character, a villain who isn't as villainous as he is forced by dire circumstances, intelligent but not necessarily educated, determined but not without compassion. He deserves greater attention than he'll receive.

Entertaining, and exciting and superbly acted, Captain Phillips is a terrific movie and one of the year's best. Again, welcome back, Tom Hanks.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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