Real-life thriller Captain Phillips delivers edge-of-the-seat, white-knuckle suspense and intellectually nourishing food for thought.

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Captain Phillips - Tom Hanks

Based on the hijacking of the US container ship Maersk Alabama by Somali pirates in 2009, outstanding real-life thriller Captain Phillips 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. Tom Hanks is the American ship’s veteran captain and Bafta-winning, Oscar-nominated screen newcomer Barkhad Abdi is the young Somali leading the four-man pirate crew. Both are 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, turning the screw still tighter as an increasingly fraught battle of wits unfolds between the opposing leaders and finally bringing events to a 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 Abdi, who was working as a chauffeur when he was cast in the film, matches him with a performance of remarkable depth and shade.

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Certificate 12. Runtime 134 mins. Director Paul Greengrass.

Released on Blu-ray, DVD & Digital by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.