Captain Phillips does something to audiences that Hollywood is usually afraid to do. It tricks you into accepting certain principles about itself and then completely dismantles them.
The movie takes you on an unrelenting ride that is sure to give viewers whiplash. The final 15 minutes of the film are easily the most tense and gripping 15 minutes I've experienced since Zero Dark Thirty, and we have the guiding hand of Paul Greengrass as director and Tom Hanks as frontrunner in one of the fall's best films.
That's the short review. To be as simple as possible: this movie is worth watching. It's one of the best movies based on a true story to come out in a while, which is a hard feat these days, and it would be a shame for you to miss it.
But I do have more to say about the film, which is the story of the first American cargo ship to be hijacked by pirates in over 200 years. This is the story that made global headlines back in 2009, putting piracy back into the spotlight for both historians and standup comedians.
We meet our title character, Captain Richard Phillips, early on in the movie. Played by Tom Hanks in what will be one of the standout performances in his career (not that easy in his case), Richard is a normal, duty-driven ship captain who does everything right and by the book. Despite his best efforts, his cargo ship is hijacked by Somali pirates in the "African Horn," and he must work to prevent the pirates from harming his crew...and himself.
Captain Phillips isn't your normal movie hero. Hanks delivers his role as a smart, pre-emptive character who is constantly keeping his wits about him to survive. His role is countered by Muse, the villainous captain of the pirates. After their ship is taken, a battle of tension and wits is employed by the two opposing forces, slowly showing us just how far Phillips and Muse will go before they unravel.
The movie is meticulous in both detail and spirit. Everything is deliberate, with few mistakes making it to the screen. Even the pacing, which is far less brisk than we've become accustomed to, is purposefully slow and haunting as each act plays out.
To be fair, the movie is truly the sum of its parts. The final act is what really sells the movie, which at its core is a powerful character drama that manages to capture a snapshot of this strange and sensational story.
Is it worth watching?
Like I said before, this film is worth paying box office price if you can't wait. I'm not expecting the film to be an event movie like Gravity, and you probably already know the ending since the news story is still fresh in our minds. Still, it's worth it to catch this one early just to watch what is one of Tom Hanks' best performances.