FROM THE DEN AT WOLF THEATRES — If I was forced to describe “Captain Phillips” in one word, I’d choose “intense.”
Director Paul Greengrass (“The Bourne Supremacy”) brings his considerable skill for creating tense, tightly-shot action flicks to this true-life story about the hijacking of an American container ship off the coast of Somalia in 2009.
Many readers will remember the actual events upon which the film is based: Four Somali pirates got aboard The Maersk Alabama, but found the crew more difficult to manage than anticipated. The hijackers are ultimately driven from the ship, but manage to pull Captain Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks) into the ship’s lifeboat as they escape, hoping to ransom him for millions.
In its style, pacing and use of tight, claustrophobic camera work and action sequences, “Phillips” is unmistakably Greengrass’ film. As he does with most of his work, the director does a terrific job of creating tension, of generating a vicarious sense of what it might be like to be trapped aboard Alabama with her crew.
Of course, skillful direction alone does not a great film make, and indeed, if “Phillips” is clearly Greengrass’ directorial triumph, it belongs completely to Hanks from a performance perspective.
Hanks has been in something of a slump in recent years (as much of a slump as an international, multiple-award-winning superstar can fall into), with his reputation for box-office bankability taking a minor hit. His performance here should reinvigorate his career; I certainly expect to see him nominated for a multiple awards.
He does a masterful job of transitioning between and conveying Phillips’ complex array of emotions as he maneuvers and deals with lead hijacker Abduwali Muse (Barkhad Abdi) and his pirate gang. Phillips isn’t a military man and he’s not qualified to deal with such thugs, but deal with them he does, working surreptitiously with his crew to drive them from the ship.