News

REVIEW: Tom Hanks captivates in ‘Captain Phillips’

REVIEW: Tom Hanks captivates in ‘Captain Phillips’

Tom Hanks stars as "Captain Phillips."/Sony Pictures

Genre:  Biography, Crime, Drama | Run Time: 134 min | Rated: PG-13
Director: Paul Greengrass | Starring: Tom Hanks, Barkhard Abdi, Michael Chernus

By: George Wolf

If the story of Captain Phillips wasn’t true, someone in Hollywood would have dreamed it up for a new Paul Greengrass adventure film starring Tom Hanks. That movie would have been pretty good.

The reality-based version, though, is pretty great.

In 2009, Phillips was at the helm of the Mearsk Alabama when it was attacked and boarded by Somali pirates. Failing to take control of the ship, the pirates took Phillips hostage, holding him in a lifeboat for days until a Navy SEAL team did what Navy SEALs do.

As this is not a documentary, some of the details may be exaggerated, a fact which takes nothing away from the film’s effectiveness. Greengrass (The Bourne Supremacy and Ultimatum, United 93) utilizes the shaky camera movements and extreme closeups he’s known for to create solid tension early on, and then to slowly increase the pressure as events unfold.

In much the same vein as the fact- based films Argo and Zero Dark Thirty, Captain Phillips chronicles a crisis from recent history, and tells the story well enough to make you bite your nails over an outcome you already know.

Ironically, that story gets off to a bit of a rocky start. In setting up a contrast between the respective worlds of Phillips and the lead pirate Muse (Barkhad Abdi, in a stunning acting debut), Greengrass and screenwriter Billy Ray (The Hunger Games, State of Play) seem a bit hurried.

Not only is Phillips’s pre-trip routine very reminiscent of Hanks’s pre-flight scenes in Castaway, but, more importantly, in attempting to explain the attack, the opening minutes skirt with reducing the entire ordeal to little more than black savages against white heroes.
If you’ll pardon the pun, the ship is righted once the attack begins. From the moment Phillips spies the pirate boat through his binoculars, the tension is palpable. Greengrass creates an effective hide-and-seek between the pirates and the crew of the Alabama, culminating with the capture of Phillips himself.

The claustrophobic depiction of the days inside the lifeboat, mixed with scenes of a rescue being planned and implemented are nothing short of gripping, as Hanks delivers what is possibly the best work of his career.

His status as Hollywood heavyweight and all around swell guy has at times made it easy to forget that Hanks is damn good. This performance slaps the memory back into you. Hanks gives Phillips the humanity needed to ground a tale such as this, and drives the entire film into your psyche with one of the finest depictions of post-trauma shock ever seen on film.

By the time you are breathing a sigh of relief, you can’t imagine the story of Captain Phillips in better hands.

Verdict-4-0-Stars

Read more movie reviews at MaddWolf.com.

Latest Headlines

in Local

Collins, Bellows Square Off in 2nd Debate

GENERIC VOTE

BANGOR, Maine (AP) _ Republican Sen. Susan Collins and Democratic challenger Shenna Bellows are squaring off in another debate.

in Local

Court: Maine Agency Can Campaign Against Bear Vote

BEAR-LARGE

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) _ A Portland judge says the state's Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife can use its resources to campaign against a statewide referendum to ban certain bear-hunting tactics.

in Local

30 Maine Guard Members Home from Middle East

GENERIC NATIONAL GUARD

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) _ About 30 members of the Maine National Guard are home from a six-month deployment to Afghanistan.

in Local

Police Waiting on Autopsy in Lewiston Baby Death

Newsradio WGAN

LEWISTON, Maine (AP) _ Maine's state Medical Examiner's Office is still preparing an autopsy report for a baby found unresponsive in a Lewiston bathtub.

in Local

Maine’s High Court Allows Grand Falls Wind Farm

GENERIC WIND FARM

GRAND FALLS TOWNSHIP, Maine (AP) _ Maine's highest court is upholding a state Board of Environmental Protection decision to give a developer the go-ahead to build a wind farm on Passadumkeag Ridge in Grand Falls Township.