What makes “Captain Phillips” so interesting to American audiences is what made “Argo” and “Zero Dark Thirty” so captivating. These stories are widely known and were, with the exception of Argo, stories that dominated the news cycle for weeks on end. The world couldn’t get enough of the unimaginable stories of pirates, rebels, and terrorists so far from home, with so much danger and American life on the line.
As far as straight forward stories go, “Captain Phillips” is it. Pirates take over cargo ship. Pirates try to escape in small boat. Pirates die. It’s getting there that makes this bearable. The reason I delayed watching this movie despite its high critic approval is because as a movie, I couldn’t see what could be added that the news blitz didn’t already do. I figured Tom Hanks would bring his patented grand performance as Captain Phillips, and he would be the pinnacle of the story. I stick by that guess. Aside from pirate actor Barkhad Abdi and his few meaningful interactions with Hanks, the leg that the film leans on is the mild intensity of the fine details leading up to the known inevitable.
The last 20 minutes of “Captain Phillips” is the film’s best moments thanks to Hanks and the SEAL sharpshooters. Beyond that there isn’t much else needed to call to attention. It’s a finely performed reenactment for an interesting story. For a film about a widely known event, it does decent justice to the hype. But is this a Tom Hanks flick you should be itching to see? Probably not.