The only way that Captain Phillips could have been a better movie is if it also featured Ben Affleck. But in my opinion, that is pretty much true of every movie.
In all seriousness, Captain Phillips was a complete, rounded film that captivated me throughout the whole 2 hours-ish long saga. The movie details the 2009 pirate attack on Captain Richard Phillips’ ship in Somalia, and features Tom Hanks as the forceful (and a bit neurotic) Captain Phillips. The strength of the film is Hanks’ portrayal of Phillips. Far from illustrating Phillips as a simplistic, heroic man, Hanks stays true to form and presents a layered and complex character. As in his performances in greats like Forrest Gump and Castaway, Hanks dominates the movie because we can see the many sides of this man. Hanks isn’t the only one who shines in this movie, though—the supporting cast is just as good.
Truth be told, the movie could be a few minutes shorter, and it is clearly divided into two acts, the latter of which is noticeably different (and in my opinion, slightly less tension-filled) than the first. But with a plotline as tense as this one and with performances as complex—plus a few terrifying shots of a giant boat alone in the water—it’s a keeper. Hanks is no stranger to being cast away alone at sea, and he’s gotten pretty good at it.
Stars: 4.5 out of 5
Who to see this movie with: Date night or mom and dad—it’s a crowd pleaser with no sex, drugs, or foul language, so everyone is safe
Snacks to come prepared with: Popcorn, because you’ll need something to last a while to fend off the tension, and lots of water, because at sea they have none and it’s sure to make you thirsty
Captain Phillips is a terrific film, but know that the first scene is very bad. It's an awkwardly written and acted scene of Hanks and Keener clumsily talking about their life while driving, and it may lead you into thinking the rest of the dialogue and plotting will be as clumsy. I think it's just in there to give Tom Hanks time to practice his terrible Boston accent. After that travesty though, we're left with one of the best films of 2013. It's incredibly well-acted and tense, especially in the first half of the film, in which the crew of Hank's ship borrow some Home Alone- esque tactics from Kevin McCallister to stall the pirates.
What especially impressed me with this movie is Greengrass' resistance to use the true events as a platform for some sort of preachy message. The pirates aren't portrayed as monsters or victims, and Hanks isn't a John McClaine-like hero. This is not a political movie but a story of some people in an unusual circumstance that happens to be based on true events.
Stars: 4.5 out 5
How Does it compare to other films based on true stories?
Better than? Zero Dark Thirty
Worse than? Dog Day Afternoon