In a year of great films so far, Captain Phillips is easily in the top five — its buzz is coming late in the game now that the big name critics are finally putting out their reviews. Here is a sampling. More over at metacritic.
Manohla Dargis at the New York Times:
This humanization hits you like a jolt. The shock isn’t that the pirates are people, however corrupted. But that even as the movie’s rhythms quicken along with your own — Mr. Greengrass works you over like a deep-tissue pugilist with smash cuts, racing cameras and a propulsive soundtrack so you feel the urgency as well as see it — an argument is being created. There is, you realize, meaning here beyond the plot, meaning in the barren Somali hamlet in which Muse and his companions congregate under warlord gunpoint and in the razored angles of their startling, gaunt faces. There’s meaning, too, in the wild eyes and stained teeth of men who never eat, but stuff their thin cheeks with khat, the amphetaminelike plant that, among its uses, helps suppress the appetite.
David Edelstein (Slate, NPR):
There’s a perils-of-globalization theme in Captain Phillips, telegraphed early when Phillips says to his wife, played by Catherine Keener, “The world’s movin’ so fast.” That’s one reason the scene after the brutal climax is so powerful. Mostly it works because it’s played so beautifully. But it’s also because, whatever Phillips’ fate, the movie suggests that we’re never safe — that the forces that put him in harm’s way are still out there, closer than we realize, speeding toward our giant ship of state.
LA Times’ Kenneth Turan:
When Paul Greengrass directs a thoroughly dramatic tale based on true events and Tom Hanks takes on the title role, you think you know what to expect. But just you wait — the piercingly realistic “Captain Phillips” will exceed your expectations.
The story of the six days that Richard Phillips, captain of the cargo ship Maersk Alabama, spent in April 2009 first trying to avoid a gang of Somali pirates and then as their restive captive, this film does an impeccable job of creating and tightening the narrative screws. The result is so propulsive that you may find yourself looking at your watch not out of boredom but because you’re not sure how much more tension you can stand.
Four stars from Washington Post’s Ann Hornaday:
“Captain Phillips” is such an impressive dramatic achievement that it comes as a shock when it gets even better, during a devastating final scene in which Hanks single-handedly dismantles Hollywood notions of macho heroism in one shattering, virtually wordless sequence. That moment, as purely emotional as what went before has been kinetic, makes “Captain Phillips” yet another Greengrass masterpiece. And it reveals why there have been so many: Behind the director’s dispassionate, unfailingly rigorous lens lies an enormous, unfailingly compassionate heart.