He shows passion for the character, passion for the material and an obligation to do it justice unleashing every tool in his thespian toolbox to create a movie and human begin who is memorable in an ordinary sort of way.
What’s equally important, however, is what it shows from Hanks and director Paul Greengrass (United 93).
First Hanks. There’s little denying that he’s always been an actor of great talent, instinct and intelligence and he brings that to every role that he takes.
What, however, has been missing is that elusive spark that you see in an individual’s eyes when they lose themselves in something that they love.
With Hanks it revealed itself in the likes of Big, Forrest Gump and Philadelphia, his two Oscar-winning roles. In Cast Away, his last Academy Award-nominated effort, it allowed him to carry 75 percent of a film that pushed three hours.
Look at his work since. He could do the role of Robert Langdon, the character from Dan Brown’s popular books The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons while strolling in his sleep drunk. Larry Crowne proved a nice little diversion that allowed him to direct much in the way of That Thing You Do! in 1996.
The last time he gave audiences anything for them to sink their teeth into was Charlie Wilson’s War (2007). There’s no counting Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close because he played more of a supporting character.
But Phillips will be counted among the year's best and remembered for Hanks’ mesmerizing turn that is alternately subtle and heart wrenching as he brings a canyon full of emotions the part. He conveys a feeling with just his eyes in some scenes while in others he has to literally lose himself in an emotional moment and it’s all a riveting ride.
But there’s no denying that Greengrass deserves credit for crafting not only a technically superb film, but using his camera’s eye to complement the situation involved. In scenes where Phillips is in a cramped lifeboat with his pirate captors, that camera gives us the sense of dread, tension and claustrophobia.
This is the film that may give Greengrass the recognition he so richly deserves. He received his just due for directing two Bourne films – The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum - but in between those came United 93, a superb, sobering look at the events of Sept. 11. It deserved best picture consideration along with the best director nod that he received for the Oscars.
The conventional wisdom at that time: it was too soon to explore that topic. The time may never be right for that subject, but Greengrass did tremendous work on that film.
Perhaps Captain Phillips will be the film to make up for that oversight. It certainly deserves to be in the Academy Award conversation.
And remember the name Barkhad Abdi who plays Muse, the pirates leader. His represents a portrayal of quiet yet intense desperation. It’s if Adbi, who came to the U.S. when he was 7-years-old from Somalia, felt a need to convey the desperation that exists in that part of the world. His is a notable debut in a film that is a must see.
Movie: Captain Phillips
Director: Paul Greengrass
Cast: Tom Hanks, Catherine Keener, Barkhad Abdi
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Rated: PG-13 for sustained intense sequences of menace, some violence with bloody images, and for substance use.
Running time: 134 minutes
George’s rating: 4.5-of-5 stars
Check for theaters and showtimes at Atlas Cinemas, Cleveland Cinemas, Fandango.com and MovieTickets.com