Sony Pictures has had a bad summer, let’s face it. But Paul Greengrass’s “Captain Phillips” starring Tom Hanks is just what the doctor ordered. The truth story of how Captain Richard Phillips survived his boat’s 2009 hijacking by Somali pirates is going to be a box office hit and an Oscar nominee in several categories.
Hanks gives one of his best performances ever as Phillips, a very unshowy hero who kept his cool when Somali pirates boarded the Maersk Alabama cargo ship in the Somali channel. The movie is uniformly well cast and very exciting even though we know the outcome. Last night Phillips and many of his crew were on hand for the opening of the New York Film Festival.
I met and talked to one of them who lamented that five days had to be squeezed into two hours. But Shane Murphy concurred that “Captain Phillips” is pretty much spot on. It certainly conveys the terror of what happened to Phillips and his crew. But Greengrass’s direction and camera work — as in “United 93”– add elements of suspense that make the film entertaining.
Greengrass also managed to make the Somali pirates– all played by Somali actors who live in Minneapolis–less villains than victims themselves. They’re bad guys but you sort of like them. Barkhad Abdi is a stand out. So is Michael Chernus as Murphy.
Some in the jaded NYFF audience thought the film was a little rah-rah America. Usually I’m the cynic. But I really really liked “Captain Phillips.”
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