Sunday, April 21, 2024

Review: Tom Hanks Gives Sony the Hit They Need in “Captain Phillips”


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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Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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