There’s an inordinate amount of movies based on true stories being released this season (even more so than usual), and Tom Hanks stars in two of them. But while his appearance as Walt Disney in the upcoming drama “Saving Mr. Banks” is likely considered the higher profile role, it’s hard to imagine how the actor will be able to top his brilliant, all-in performance as the title character in “Captain Phillips.” Though the film suffers from a bloated runtime and is a tad one-sided in its depiction of the antagonists, “Captain Phillips” is nonetheless a gripping hostage thriller that boasts some of the year’s finest performances, not only by Hanks, but his amateur co-stars as well.
Based on the true story of the 2009 hijacking of an American-flagged cargo ship by Somali pirates and the remarkable bravery of Captain Richard Phillips (Hanks) in deterring their efforts, the movie begins with the MV Maersk Alabama setting sail on a routine trip around the Horn of Africa. Recognizing the dangers that exist in those waters, Phillips orders his crew to practice prevention tactics against possible hijackers, only for the drill to become a real-world situation when he notices two skiffs approaching in the distance, each carrying four Somali pirates with automatic weapons. When one of the boats succeeds in attaching a ladder to the Alabama, the pirates – led by charismatic captain Muse (Barkhad Abdi) – board the cargo ship and take control, forcing Phillips to help locate the rest of his hidden crew members. But when things don’t go as planned for the desperate hijackers, Muse takes Phillips hostage and escapes on the ship’s lifeboat, leading to a tense standoff between the Somali pirates and the U.S. Navy.