Captain Phillips: New York Film Festival 2013

Paul Greengrass (United 93) brings his you-are-there aesthetic to another real-life tale, this one of an American cargo ship hijacked off the coast...

New York Film Festival 2013: Captain Phillips

Paul Greengrass (United 93) brings his you-are-there aesthetic to another real-life tale, this one of an American cargo ship hijacked off the coast of Africa. Initially, the vessel’s captain (Tom Hanks, playing effectively against type) is pitted against the Somali pirates’ leader (Barkhad Abdi) in a battle of wills. Then all hell breaks loose, and like the similar Danish film A Hijacking, the use of toggling perspectives—in this case, a lifeboat where Hanks is held captive and a military envoy that has orders to destroy it if necessary—ratchets the tension to near-unbearable levels. Greengrass, thankfully, tones down his usual shaky-cam, epilepsy-inducing editing style and lets the story’s forward momentum carry the weight, a move that makes a vast difference: You walk away from Captain Phillips shaken not by a filmmaker’s bag of tricks but by his virtuosity in placing you in the middle of another man’s waking nightmare. Click for showtimes.—David Fear

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