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article imageReview: 'Captain Phillips' keeps you on the edge of your seat Special

By Kristal Cooper     Oct 10, 2013 in Entertainment
As true-to-life a superhero story as you're ever going to see, Tom Hanks turns in a gripping, tour-de-force performance as Richard Phillips, a cargo ship captain kidnapped by Somali pirates in 2009.
The film, which is based on Phillips' book detailing the events, works as pure nail-biter entertainment while also touching (albeit lightly) on the implications of globalization on third world societies. The film works best when it's operating in the grey areas between good and evil, and screenwriter Billy Ray smartly keeps the interactions between Phillips and his captors fluctuating between hostile, harrowing and downright sympathetic. Caring a little bit about everyone involved goes a long way towards keeping you on the edge of your seat.
The story follows the real world events: Phillips was captaining the Maersk Alabama through the Indian Ocean in 2009 when, while traveling around the Horn of Africa, the ship was overtaken by a small band of Somali pirates. The story made headlines because it was the first incident involving pirates capturing an American vessel in nearly 200 years.
Because of maritime regulations, the ship was unarmed so when the gun-toting Somalis (played by newcomers Barkhad Abdi, Faysal Ahmed, Barkhad Abdirahman, and Mahat M. Ali) climb aboard, it's up to Phillips and the crew to outsmart them by using their knowledge of the ship to their advantage, while also trying to talk them into taking the $30,000 stashed in the safe and making a clean getaway.
Unfortunately it's not that simple for the four poverty-stricken fishermen who were brought together by a local warlord and compelled to hold out for a seven-figure pay day. The pirates agree to leave the ship in a rescue boat, but not without a hostage. Suddenly the fate of Captain Phillips is in the hands of the US Navy who are on a race against the clock to reach the pirate vessel before they land in Somalia and hand Phillips over to their boss.
Paul Greengrass revisits familiar white-knuckle territory (he's kept audiences uber-tense in the past with films like The Bourne Supremacy and Ultimatum, United 93 and Green Zone) and expertly ratchets up the tension with every passing moment as the situation gets more and more dire for each of the five desperate men stranded together in the lifeboat.
Captain Phillips might not always be quite the high action shoot-em-up that audiences may expect from Greengrass but the film's quieter moments don't make it any less impressive or occasionally terrifying to sit through. Hanks, as expected, finds the nuances within those moments of lower-case heroism, pulling off a role that could have very easily veered into one-note territory. It's a performance that truly heralds the start of the awards season.
Captain Phillips opens on October 11, 2013.
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