Captivated by story of piracy and poverty
TOM Hanks charts a steady course towards a deserved sixth Oscar nod for his tour-de-force portrayal of an unlikely hero in Paul Greengrass's tense thriller.
Based on the book A Captain's Duty by Richard Phillips and Stephan Talty, this expertly-crafted picture dramatises the true story of a US seaman, whose cargo ship was hijacked by Somali pirates in 2009.
Working from a lean script, Greengrass demonstrates 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 Somali pirates first appear on the radar, Captain Phillips leaves us feeling seasick with tension until the extraordinary final scene releases all of that pent-up emotion in a torrent of tears.
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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, Phillips telephones the authorities.
"Chances are they're just fisherman," responds a female operator.
"They're not here to fish," retorts the captain with mounting concern.
A tense game of cat and mouse culminates in the pirates boarding the vessel by hooking a makeshift ladder over the side of the ship.
Phillips conceals the crew below deck in the engine room while he takes charge.
"Nobody get hurt, No al-Qaeda here," promises chief hijacker Muse (Barkhad Abdi) with a sickening smile.
Faced with threats from Muse, Phillips puts himself in harm's way to ensure the safety of every man on board.
When the stand-off spirals out of control, the destroyer USS Bainbridge, captained by Frank Castellano (Yul Vazquez), races to the scene.
The film also shines a light on a 21st Century economy which sees luxury first world products brought tantalisingly close to some of the poorest and most desperate people on the planet, and tells of the pirates' plight.
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.