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'Captain Phillips' is commanding

Published on -10/16/2013, 9:49 AM

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"Captain Phillips" tells the true story of Capt. Richard Phillips and the crew of the Maersk Alabama during the cargo ship's hijacking by Somali pirates in 2009. Very simply, this is a fantastic -- and powerful -- movie.

Much like there was in "Gravity," there is a scene in "Captain Phillips" that transcends the films greatness and blows through the barrier into iconic territory. In both cases, however, I feel I would be providing a disservice to describe these scenes more than I already have -- even saying where they occur within the movie is information enough to spoil some of the effect.

I will simply say this: When Tom Hanks is nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in "Captain Phillips," the highlight reel that will be shown will be almost exclusively from the scene I am describing.

Cryptic acting achievements aside, "Captain Phillips" is a tense thriller that displays wonderful focus on its narrative. There are no distractions here, there are no cop-outs. There is very real and intimate danger.

What's more, "Captain Phillips" does an excellent job of putting different worlds on display. The film starts by introducing the world of commercial shipping, which is something I would imagine isn't familiar territory for most viewers. Next we see the turmoil of Somalia. The contrast between those two perspectives is startling, and the film does a great job of showing how heavily the circumstances of our birth affect the course of our lives.

It's very rare for a film to earn a six out of six from me. I cannot remember ever giving two in a row. "Captain Phillips" very much deserves its rating and its hype.

It is one of the best films of the year, and it is certainly the best Tom Hanks movie I've seen in close to a decade.

6 of 6 stars

James Gerstner works at Fort Hays State University Foundation. james.gerstner@gmail.com

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