Film Review: Captain Phillips

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.

If you thought the Surrey-born filmmaker had peaked with the adrenaline-pumping thrills of The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum, think again.

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. Our 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 including Chief Mate Shane Murphy (Michael Chernus) and Chief Engineer Mike Perry (David Warshofsky).

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.

Captain Phillips is one of the year’s best films, blessed with a terrific ensemble cast who rise magnificently to the physical challenges, while Hanks is flawless.

Greengrass’s propulsive direction, coupled with Christopher Rouse’s hyperkinetic editing and Henry Jackman’s heart-pounding orchestral score, leave us scant time to gasp for breath.