Captain Phillips

Tom Hanks has been a beloved Hollywood star for so long that it sounds like a fact-checking error when you read that he hasn’t been nominated for an Oscar in 12 years. During an historic stretch that spanned from A League of Their Own to Cast Away, Hanks could do no wrong, winning two Academy Awards and starring in 10 movies that topped $100 million. But his last decade’s highlights have been animated films, a Dan Brown franchise, and the HBO historical epics that he’s produced; his last few starring vehicles underachieved.

Notable recent movies: Box-office gross, (Metacritic/Rotten Tomatoes)

Cloud Atlas (2012): $27.1 million, (55/66)

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011): $31.8 million, (46/47)

Larry Crowne (2011): $35.6 million, (41/35)

Angels & Demons (2009): $133.4 million, (48/37)

Charlie Wilson’s War (2007): $66.7 million, (69/81)

That downward trend might change this fall, as Hanks has two promising movies that are being heralded as a return to form. In Saving Mr. Banks (Dec. 20), he stars as Walt Disney during the mogul’s contentious courtship of children’s author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) to adapt Mary Poppins into a movie. In Captain Phillips, which opens Friday, he plays another real-life person: Richard Phillips, the captain of the hijacked Maesk Alabama who was kidnapped and held ransom by Somali pirates in 2009. Phillips’ sensational story felt like a movie as it was unfolding in 2009, and in the hands of director Paul Greengrass (United 93), it retains that thrilling moment-to-moment intensity.

With Captain Phillips, the critics are back in his corner, with EW’s Owen Gleiberman writing that Hanks “acts with a minimalism that speaks volumes: We’re wired into his every glance.”

Before you head to the theater, click below to see what other prominent critics are saying about Captain Phillips.

Owen Gleiberman (Entertainment Weekly)

“One of the pirates, a young fellow named Muse, is played by Barkhad Abdi, who has the ravaged, bone-hungry face of a starving child all grown up. That face haunts the movie, and so does Abdi’s extraordinary acting. Muse is ruthless, forlorn, street-smart, naive (he wants millions of dollars, even though there’s only $30,000 on the ship), and even compassionate, all at the same time.”

Ty Burr (Boston Globe)

“Director Paul Greengrass creates an aura of urgency so compelling, so rooted in detail, that we temporarily forget what we know and hold our breaths for two-plus hours of tightening suspense.”

“Hanks gives one of his very best and subtlest everyman performances. His captain is modest and sturdy; he’s the sterling good neighbor who finds himself risking his own life to save others — in this instance, his 20-man crew.”

Todd McCarthy (The Hollywood Reporter)

“The film rips right along and never relinquishes its grip. The format of the last-minute heroics goes back to the earliest Westerns and could well be accused of patness or being cliched — other than for the fact that it’s what happened.”

Mick LaSalle (San Francisco Chronicle)

“Hanks’ transparency is something brilliant. His face is so easy to read that we not only get his emotions but the complexity of his thinking. At one point, for example, he knows these pirates are finished, that they’re either going to be dead or imprisoned, that there is absolutely no way out for them. And he just sits in dread of their realizing it.”

Michael Phillips (Chicago Tribune)

Captain Phillips is a Tom Hanks movie. It is also a Paul Greengrass movie, and the cinematic tumult director Greengrass adroitly captures and sustains in the service of a narrative has a way of keeping his stars unmoored — in a good way — while trumping conventional Hollywood notions of a star vehicle.”

David Edelstein (New York Magazine)

“[Muse] is the Scary Black Man who haunts white America’s most xenophobic dreams. The triumph of the actor and the director, Paul Greengrass, is that, over the next two hours, we come to feel as deeply for Muse as for his hostage played by all-American nice-guy superstar Tom Hanks.”

Rene Rodriguez (Miami Herald)

“Like United 93, Captain Phillips doesn’t take political sides. Greengrass approaches the story from the center out, showing instead of telling and focusing on the humanity of its protagonists instead of their ideals. The movie allows us to interpret everyone’s actions instead of telling us what to think and how to feel about them.”

Joshua Rothkopf (Time Out New York)

Zero Dark Thirty handled this kind of frighteningly precise night-scope operation with just the right tone of ominousness. This time, facts dictate an abrupt thud. Narratively speaking, it’s a killer. Which is all one way of saying that Captain Phillips is almost certainly about the wrong guy.”

Eric Kohn (IndieWIRE)

Captain Phillips in the hands of Greengrass looks exactly like anyone familiar with his work would expect. It does justice to the material even while playing too conscientiously by the book. For better or worse, Greengrass’ virtuous approach is a thinkpiece on imperialism that’s been smuggled into commercial escapism.”

Anthony Lane (New Yorker)

“The story begins as one kind of Greengrass film, about an ordinary joe, and then hardens into the other kind, equipped with unswayable snipers and stone-jawed commanders whose idea of a windy rhetorical speech is ‘Execute.'”

Captain Phillips

Overall Metacritic rating (1-100): 82

Rotten Tomatoes: 94 percent

Captain Phillips
  • Movie
  • 134 minutes