Reviews: Tom Hanks stars in marine thriller Captain Phillips

Oct 18, 2013

Paul Greengrass and Hanks are on outstanding form in this riveting true story of a Somali pirate hijacking

What you need to know
Critics have praised Paul Greengrass's new maritime thriller Captain Phillips, which opens in UK cinemas today. The film is based on a real hijacking by Somali pirates, described by Captain Richard Phillips in his a book A Captain's Duty. Greengrass is best known for his Bourne films and the quasi-documentary United 93.

The film dramatises the events surrounding the hijack of American container ship, MV Maersk Alabama, off the coast of Somalia by a small band of pirates in 2009. Phillips (played by Tom Hanks) works to protect his crew and is taken hostage on a lifeboat.

Barkhad Abdi plays Somali pirate leader Abduwali Abdukhadir Muse. With Catherine Keener as Phillips's wife. 

What the critics like
British director Paul Greengrass remains at the top of his game turning action-thriller material into something "cohesive, layered and complex", says David Gritten in the Daily Telegraph. The film also features an outstanding performance by Tom Hanks, who has been handed his strongest lead role in years.

Greengrass and Hanks are on award-deserving form in this "riveting, emotionally complex and hugely intelligent dramatisation of a real-life ordeal", says Dan Jolin in Empire. Greengrass aims to present reality through a clear, documentarian lens, blow by horrible blow, and the action thunders along while relentlessly maintaining the tension.

Greengrass's take on this true story is typically intelligent and considered, but "doesn't come at the expense of thrills", says Wendy Ide in The Times. Hanks delivers a heavyweight performance and Greengrass captures the white-knuckle tension of an unimaginable crisis - this is ruthlessly effective film-making.

What they don't like
As an action movie, Captain Phillips is very well made in its own macho fashion, but it lacks a human dimension, says Geoffrey McNab in The Independent. It doesn't go beyond action movie conventions to investigate the backstory of the hijackers and ends up as another story about a heroic American held captive by villainous "others".

Sign up for our daily newsletter