Fall Movie Bonanza: Captain Phillips

Like Gravity, Captain Phillips is a potential Oscar nom entry in this fall’s prestige movie season that never lets up until the end.

Like a lot of people, I’ve admired Tom Hanks for a long time. When buying DVDs on a regular basis was a thing everyone was doing, my first project was to use my Columbia House subscription to get my hands on every DVD movie with Tom Hanks as the star. He has the unique ability to play an Everyman or the interesting outsider and do them both well. Rare is the exception to the rule that Hanks can dissolve himself and embody another person or the enjoyment of the audience.

Captain Philips is not one of the exceptions. He sells the New England native title character who is tasked with shipping cargo from Oman and past the Horn of Africa to Kenya. You buy his accent. You buy his leadership of the crew. And you buy his handling of the situation that arises when a skiff of Somali pirates approaches closer and closer until they hook a ladder to the side of the Maersk Alabama and board it.

I love about Hanks’ performance that it isn’t big or flashy. Director Paul Greengrass (the Bourne series) should be credited for not force-feeding us the kind of “Big Acting” speechifying moments that were the largest flaw of the otherwise fantastic Gravity.

The actor who played the lead pirate — whose name I’m too lazy to look up because I’m writing this blog post on a bus ride to Washington DC — had a very impressive debut performance. The raw intensity of his screen presence was refreshing. He’s the scariest possible skinny person I can think of. As the guys on the Filmspotting podcast pointed out, the trailers had me worrying we were going to get an overly sympathetic portrayal of him, but that fortunately didn’t turn out to be the case.

I recommend catching Captain Phillips on the big screen, but only if you’ve already seen Gravity in IMAX 3D. That should still be your top filmgoing priority.