Captain Phillips approaches greatness. Tom Hanks has received as much praise as criticism for his work in the film as the eponymous captain, taken hostage after an aborted pirate raid on his commercial shipping vessel, with critics acclaiming the last few minutes of the film and deriding earlier scenes. I was actually impressed at how everyday Hanks seemed in the role – an ordinary man who goes through the ringer and emerges as that same ordinary man, utterly traumatized.
Barkhad Abdi is superb, glowing with a young, hungry energy that will either launch him to stardom or at least as a go-to bad guy in action films. And Greengrass’s direction has never been better; I haven’t been entirely sold on his bring-a-sick-bag shaky-cam in the past, but it’s restrained and perfectly judged here.
In the end, Captain Phillips is simply good. What kept it from true greatness for me was, more than anything, its length. It’s an impossibly tense film, but after a while – especially in an extended final act – the tension is drawn out for too long, transforming into tedium. A tighter cut of the film, reducing the repetition of the climactic standoff, and perhaps you have something genuinely great.