Captain Phillips ****

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“Captain Phillips” is a heart pounding, white knuckle thriller based on a real life events. Director Paul Greengrass has crafted another terrific film full of hair raising action and tension filled drama. Tom Hanks also turns in his best performance in years as the captain of a shipping vessell that finds itself overtaken by Somali pirates.

Back in 2009, this became a world wide story when a U.S. cargo ship was boarded by pirates. The captain was then taken hostage in one of the cargo ships life boats. The result was a showdown with the American navy that was ended violently by U.S. snipers. Even though I knew the story going in it was no less tense and exciting.

Tom Hanks plays Phillips as a hard working professional who expects nothing less of his crew. He runs drills at inoportune times in order to keep everyone on their toes as they are entering waters off of Somolia which is reported to be a hot spot for pirates. Sure enough they are approached by party of potential intruders.

Phillips and his crew attempt to fend them off with giant hoses and flair guns but eventually they are boarded. Phillips sends the majority of his crew to hide in the bowels of the ship then finds hismelf with a machine gun in his face. After a tense cat and mouse game, one of the pirates is taken captive by the crew. They come to a deal with the pirates that they will left them take one of their life rafts and will exchange the captain for their prisoner. Things go badly wrong and Phillips ends up on the life raft, still as the pirates hostage. This is when the U.S. Navy intervenes and a gripping stand off takes place. The results I alluded to earlier are shocking and powerful.

All of this is driven by director Paul Greengrass, who is an expert at recreating real life events and putting us right in the middle. His “United 93” and “Bloody Sunday” are two other examples. It also doesn’t hurt that he has Tom Hanks giving one of the most emotionally arresting performances of his storied career. If he does not get at least an oscar nomination for his work here it would be a disaster.

It is so good to be back in the Fall season, when studios start releasing some of their best films. With this week and last week’s “Gravity”, he season is shaping up to be a memorable one.

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