Tom Hanks is at the top of his game in Captain Phillips – it’s his best ever performance. It’s the most pure acting that he’s ever given on screen. Usually, Hanks’ high calibre acting roles feature some sort of gimmick (weight loss, AIDS etc), but here he’s an average guy in an above average situation. He anchors Paul Greengrass’ film in such a way that helps heighten the film’s tension. And boy is there tension. Once this true-life drama kicks into high-gear it doesn’t stop, sustaining edge of your seat thrills for two hours. That is an impressive feat.
Hanks plays the titular Captain Phillips, a cargo ship captain taken hostage by Somalian pirates. He plays the role with his usual everyman charm -all at once he’s likeable, strong, fearless, terrified and emotionally broken. This is great stuff and if Hanks ever deserved an Oscar, it was for this. He’s on screen for the duration of the film’s running times and he never wavers, he’s always believable.
Paul Greengrass directs with his usual frenetic camera work, and his documentary background helps to add to the film’s reality. You can almost taste the salt in the sea air – this feels real. Greengrass again shows that he has his own brand of tense action-thriller. Nobody makes movies with the same visual style, or sense of cinematic honesty as Greengrass (although many have tried).
My only fault with Captain Phillips is that I never felt that the time-frame of Philips’ ordeal was clear – everything else is. However, if that’s the sacrifice that had to be made to sustain the film’s razor-edge tension, then I can live with it. Movies like Captain Phillips usually have a lull in the middle so that the audience can catch its breath before things ramp-up again towards the climax – but not this. It was a brave move on Greengrass’ part, because if the film didn’t work then it would be dead in the water (pun intended), but it does – with aplomb. Billy Ray’s script keeps things simple, he spends little time on the behind the scenes work to rescue Phillips and keeps the majority of the film centred on Hanks and his captor Barkhad Abdi (in a strong debut).
Captain Phillips is a great adult orientated thriller that has a wonderful sense of tension and a career best Tom Hanks performance. You owe it to yourself to see this.
Watch Captain Phillips now on Blinkbox.