Movie Reviews & Interviews from Washington

‘Captain Phillips’ Review: Tom Hanks is Remarkable in this True Story

Tom Hanks has been my favorite actor ever since I saw him in Forrest Gump when I was in elementary school. I could list all of his amazing performances from You’ve Got Mail to Cast Away to The Green Mile, even Toy Story! I could go on and on. Earlier this year I saw the actor on stage in Nora Ephron’s “Lucky Guy” and I was blown away then. And just last week when I saw Captain Phillips, I was reminded again why the versatile Mr. Hanks remains my favorite actor.

Captain Phillips tells the true story of the 2009 hijacking by a group of Somali pirates of the United States cargo ship, the Maersk Alabama. Captain Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks) and his crew perform the proper procedures in order to prevent a hijacking, but the armed pirates eventually make it aboard the ship.

The captain of the Somali crew, Muse (first-time actor Barkhad Abdi) promises not to harm anyone if Phillips complies with his requests. But when things don’t go as planned for Muse, both he and Phillips find themselves in a situation that will test both their values and how far they will go to survive

Tom Hanks gives one of the best performances of the year, if not the best as Captain Phillips. The last 10 minutes of the film alone are completely worthy of an Oscar nomination and maybe even a win at this point. I’ve thought about that particular scene quite a few times since I’ve seen the film and I still manage to get choked up.

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This is easily director Paul Greengrass’s (Green Zone & The Bourne Ultimatum) best film. United 93 is amazing and was such a powerful film to watch after 9/11; but Captain Phillips takes the cake as the most emotionally driven film he’s done. People may be concerned with the shaky cam filmmaking, but this film takes place on a ship and a small lifeboat at sea! His filmmaking style makes me feel like I am right next to Phillips, being held hostage myself. I had to remind myself to breathe at times.

Barkhad Abdi auditioned with over 700 men and got the role as the Somali captain, Muse. What’s interesting about Muse is that we clearly see he is the villain here and as much as we root for Phillips and his crew to succeed, we can still understand Muse’s point of view.

The film is one of the best of the year, but it may have been a perfect film, if screenwriter Billy Ray and Greengrass dove a little deeper into the Somali lifestyle. If there were just a few minutes more of their life in Somalia before we got to the hijacking moment, it would have given the audience a better understanding of the lives they lead onshore.

Captain Phillips is a story we all know, but maintains keeping the audience on their edge of their seat, is wonderfully shot and Hanks adds another memorable performance to his already established career.

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