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Hanks, cast deliver a knockout with "Captain Phillips"

Captain Phillips

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Captain Phillips (2013)

Captain Phillips poster
Captain Phillips poster
Columbia Pictures

Starring: Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi

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"Captain Phillips" is based on events surrounding the real-life hijacking of the MV Maersk Alabama, an American cargo ship in 2009. Tom Hanks stars as the title character, Richard Phillips, the captain of a 20-man crew sailing in treacherous waters on the way to Mombasa, Kenya. While nearing the coast of Somalia, the ship is hijacked by a group of modern-day pirates led by a young man named Muse (Abdi). Once aboard, Muse and three other men take control of the ship, holding Phillips and several others hostage in a riveting standoff while the rest of the crew is forced to hide for the sake of their lives.

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The Breakdown:

"Captain Phillips" takes about twenty minutes to set things up. Meet the captain. Meet his wife. Then, before you can say "Bob's your uncle," the crew of the Alabama is in a chaotic fight for their lives. The fact that piracy is running wild along the Somali coast is no secret, even ten minutes into the movie. Anyone who has seen a commercial or a trailer for the movie knows that the ship is about to get hijacked. That knowledge, plus an adrenaline-pumping soundtrack, create a sense of anticipation and suspense early on. The movie is full-speed ahead from the time the pirates set off from their beach until the dramatic conclusion.

How in the world Tom Hanks was overlooked for a Best Actor nomination at the Academy Awards is beyond fathoming. Hanks puts on the performance of a lifetime as the cool-headed captain. As pointed out by Chris Hicks, the amount of emotion conveyed by Hanks' facial expressions alone is impressive. And then there's the final scene of the movie. Without giving away any spoilers, Hanks quite arguably could have won himself an Oscar from that one scene alone! Absolutely wonderful, fantastic acting by Tom Hanks.

The cast of Somali pirates also does a great job, led Barkhad Abdi, who was nominated for the Oscar for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. The pirates provide an intimidating presence of panic and mayhem with their non-stop shouting, wide-eyed expressivity, and penchant for physicality. The fact that none of these African-born actors had any previous acting experience is remarkable.

The thing that really makes "Captain Phillips" great is that it is so believable. Setting aside the fact that the story actually did happen, when you watch the movie, you think, "Man, it feels like this could actually happen!" Kudos to Paul Greengrass and company whose attention to realism makes for an amazingly frightening, fascinating, captivating ride. It's an emotional movie and viewers will easily get caught up in the welfare of the Alabama crew, hoping for a peaceful resolution to the conflict and cringing at every turbulent wave along the way.

The Verdict:

"Captain Phillips" is an absolute nail-biter sucks viewers in early and only allows them to exhale once the credits start to roll, making it the best movie of 2013 and one of the most intense movies of this generation. Do yourself a favor and go buy this movie.

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Similar movies: "U-571" (2000), "The Hunt for Red October" (1990), "Pearl Harbor" (2001)

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Blu-ray bonus features:

- Audio in: English, French, Spanish

- Subtitles in English, French, Spanish

- Optional audio commentary with director Paul Greengrass

- "Capturing Captain Phillips": A three-part feature with behind-the-scenes footage and commentary with director Paul Greengrass, Tom Hanks, Michael Chernus, Richard Phillips, and others. . Some of the footage includes one uncensored use of the F-word, while others are bleeped out.

- Several previews for other movies

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Directed by: Paul Greengrass

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Running time: 134 minutes

MPAA rating: PG-13 for "sustained sequences of menace, some violence with bloody images, and for substance use," including some profanity and moderately-offensive religious references used out of desperation.

Costars Barkhad Abdirahman, Michael Chernus, Faysal Ahmed, Mahat M. Ali

Blu-ray release date: January 21, 2014

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