CAPTAIN PHILLIPS (12A, 134 mins) Thriller/Action. Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi, Barkhad Abdirahman, Catherine Keener, Michael Chernus, David Warshofsky, Yul Vazquez. Director: Paul Greengrass.Released: October 18 (UK & Ireland)
Tom Hanks charts a steady course towards a deserved sixth Oscar nomination for his tour-de-force portrayal of an unlikely hero in Paul Greengrass’s nerve-racking thriller. Based on the book A Captain’s Duty by Richard Phillips and Stephan Talty, this expertly crafted picture dramatises the true story of an American seaman, whose cargo ship was hijacked by Somali pirates in 2009.
Working from a lean script by Billy Ray, Greengrass demonstrates once again why he is one of the finest directors of nail-biting action. From the moment the Somalia pirates first appear on the radar, Captain Phillips leaves us feeling seasick with tension until the extraordinary final scene that releases all of that pent-up emotion in a torrent of tears. Captain Phillips (Hanks) kisses his wife Andrea (Catherine Keener) goodbye and takes charge of his cargo vessel, the Maersk Alabama, bound for Mombasa, Kenya. He is aided by a hard-working international crew. When pirates are spotted off the stern, Phillips telephones the authorities.
A tense game of cat and mouse culminates in the pirates boarding the vessel by hooking their makeshift ladder over the side of the boat. Phillips realises the gravity of his predicament and the potentially tragic outcome, telling his captors, “They would rather sink this boat than let you get me back to Somalia.”
Captain Phillips is one of the year’s best films, blessed with a terrific ensemble cast who rise magnificently to the physical challenges. Hanks is flawless - we can see his mind whirring as he engineers distractions to keep the crew safe - and final gut-wrenching scenes wring him, and us, emotionally dry.