‘Captain Phillips’ Is Tense and Well Acted

All those lives intersect on board the American cargo ship

Richard Phillips was one tough, brave and cool-headed captain.

Director Paul Greengrass makes sure every iota of those positive traits fill the screen in “Captain Phillips.”

Tom Hanks brings the ship pilot from Vermont into sharp focus in this real-life tale from 2009, when pirates off the coast of Somalia put the freighter Maersk Alabama squarely in their sites.

Greengrass starts his rendition with two interesting and contrasting scenes.

He shows Philips leaving from the airport to meet the cargo ship. He’s a tad nervous as he reads his company orders. He knows that area has been rife with sea hijacks of late.

Then Greengrass shows a Somalian village, where the men jump into action when bosses pull into their midst and say it’s time for them to get into their boats and make them more money.

Phillips has so much at stake, leaving his wife and children behind to do a job that’s making him uneasy. The pirates have so much at stake, attempting to get a piece of the pie, lift themselves and their families out of poverty and keep the bosses happy.

All those lives intersect on board the American cargo ship.

Hanks shows depth as he attempts to thwart the situation, defuse it when things get out of hand and keep himself alive when his worst nightmares are realized. Barkhad Abdi is marvelous as the spindly leader for the pirates. The cultures from which they come couldn’t be more different, but this leader of the pirates, Muse, shows the same levels of courage and smarts as Captain Phillips.

It’s a tense and life-altering battle of wits.

Of course, Captain Phillips ultimately has the U.S. Navy on his side. You could look it up on Google if you don’t remember the story from the news accounts when it happened. I didn’t. It was a good choice, allowing Greengrass to take me from the start to finish.

– Mark Bialczak

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