Captain Phillips is about a group of Somali pirates who invade a U.S. cargo ship—but it’s also, most importantly, about the quiet, unassuming courage of one man. (There’s a reason the film is called Captain Phillips and not Terror at Sea or somethin’.)
And thank goodness that man is played by Tom Hanks, who projects decency and normalcy like no actor since Jimmy Stewart.
His Captain Richard Phillips is smart and seasoned and good at his job, but he’s no swashbuckler. It’s just that, as captain, it’s his responsibility to protect his crew and his ship—and that’s what he’s going to try to do, no matter how terrified he may be.
The director Paul Greengrass (who also did the heartbreaking but riveting United 93 and two of the Bourne films) excels at jittery, documentary-style action. Very much to his credit, he introduces us to the band of Somali pirates, humanizing them. They’re terrorized by a local warlord and desperate to feed their families. They’re led by Muse (Barkhad Abdi), a smart, but twitchy, young man with a dangerously fragile ego. Just as Phillips is not traditionally heroic, Muse is not traditionally villainous. He doesn’t want to hurt anyone....