Director Paul Greengrass makes some of the least slick, most nerve-wracking Hollywood action-adventure thrillers, and last year’s Captain Phillips is his best since 2006’s United 93. Adapting another true story—with a screenplay by Shattered Glass’ Billy Ray—Greengrass depicts the 2009 hijacking of the freighter Maersk Alabama, with Tom Hanks playing commercial freighter captain Richard Phillips, and Barkhad Abdi playing the young, wiry pirate Abduwali Muse, who leads the raiding-party. Greengrass and Ray emphasize the complexities of the conflict, but don’t spare the you-are-there intensity, and don’t oversimplify the characters. As Phillips, Hanks is officious and not that easy to like, which ultimately worsens the situation when he’s being held at gunpoint by a man with nothing to lose. Full of vivid details about modern commercial shipping and the culture of African piracy, Captain Phillips brings a strong sense of realism and existential horror to a life-or-death scenario. It’s a white-knuckler made all the tenser because neither Phillips nor Muse are wholly heroic or villainous. Captain Phillips airs on Starz tonight at 9 p.m. Eastern.
October 16, 2014 newsreel