Tom Hanks is the title American ship’s captain and Barkhad Abdi a desperate Somali trying to hijack it in this outstanding real-life thriller.
Based on the hijacking of the US container ship Maersk Alabama by four Somali pirates in 2009, this movie delivers edge-of-the-seat, white-knuckle suspense and intellectually nourishing food for thought.
At the story’s heart are two men from very different worlds set on a collision course by the effects of globalisation, as is spelled out – a little blatantly, it must be said – in parallel scenes that show them preparing to set sail.
Once at sea, though, director Paul Greengrass doesn’t put a foot wrong, ramping up the tension as the pirates’ tiny skiff attempts to board the giant container ship and turning the screw still tighter as an increasingly fraught battle of wits unfolds between the opposing leaders all the way to the shattering conclusion.
Hanks is at his very best, portraying Phillips’ steadfast courage and quick-witted ingenuity, while also revealing the terrible emotional cost of his ordeal. And Oscar-nominated Abdi, who was working as a chauffeur when he was cast in the film, matches him with a performance of remarkable depth.