Captain Phillips, rated PG-13

Starring Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi, Catherine Keener

Austin Family critical rating: 5 of 5 stars

Austin Family family-friendly rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Of the films I’ve seen this fall, the one that took me by the biggest surprise was Paul Greengrass’ Captain Phillips, starring Tom Hanks as Captain Richard Phillips of the MV Maersk Alabama, which was attacked by armed Somali pirates in 2009. This intense and gripping true-life thriller is as emotionally and politically complex a piece of filmmaking as I’ve seen. As the pirates take Phillips hostage and force him into a small lifeboat with them, there is a sort of doomed inevitability that hangs over the characters in the second half of this movie.

In the last five minutes of this film, Hanks does some of the finest acting of his career. The ending of Captain Phillips embraces all of the moral ambiguities inherent in such a story, and struck me similarly to the ending of Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty – it’s a triumph for the United States, but at what cost for the film’s protagonist? Captain Phillips is one of the best films of the year.

Jack Kyser is a graduate of Austin High School and New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.

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