Thankfully, it found its audience, and that’s a good thing as this is Tom Hanks’ best performance in years. Inexplicably not nominated for best actor at this year's Oscars (I'd have nominated him over Bale in AMERICAN HUSTLE- as good as he was- and Dern's role in NEBRASKA is a supporting part at best), Hanks is incredibly moving as the titular captain, who found himself in a harrowing situation after Somali pirates hijacked his ship. Playing a headstrong, maybe even pigheaded guy, Hanks seems to have been made for the role, that feels like a throw-back to the complicated star turns he used to give in the late nineties-early aughts. Phillips could have just allowed the pirates to take his cargo and be done with it, but there’s a certain nobility in his stubborn need to take responsibility for his cargo that makes him come off as a hero, even if the real Phillips was (and remains) a controversial figure.
Almost as good as Hanks is newcomer Barkhad Abdi, as the head hijacker. The morality of his situation is complex, as the Somali pirates are driven to do what they do- often- by necessity, although their cold-bloodedness isn’t downplayed. There’s something tragic about the character, in that Abdi plays him as intelligent, but he’s unable to see the hopelessness of his own situation and how, once they’ve taken Phillips, there’s absolutely no way their situation won’t have a violent outcome.
For director Paul Greengrass, CAPTAIN PHILLIPS plays as an intriguing hybrid of his commercial BOURNE actioners and his more independent endeavors, such as the great UNITED 93 and BLOODY SUNDAY. This film works on both levels, ultimately delivering stirring entertainment that’s one of his strongest films to date.