Med City Movie Guy: Hanks role as pirates' abductee will win him Oscar

For my biopic, Jake Gyllenhaal will play me and I'll have actually graduated from law school instead of dubiously claiming, as I do now, that I "went" to law school (as in, "to buy this t-shirt from their bookstore").

It's what's called dramatic license. In other words, don't confuse "based on a true story" Hollywood movies with Ken Burns documentaries.

That said, Captain Richard Phillips' account of his cargo ship's hijacking in 2009 by Somali pirates, on which the new Tom Hanks drama is based, has its detractors. But whether the tale is 90 percent true or only 9 percent, it is a gripping film.

A New England family man, Phillips helms a ship en route to Kenya, ironically carrying aid for the continent's poorest countries. Midway through the Horn of Africa, a notoriously dangerous area, Somali pirates attack his massive freighter. He and his small crew initially fend them off, but are eventually overtaken by the four armed buccaneers.

Phillips offers them $30,000 he has on board but the pirates have grander goals. Large ships commandeered in the past have earned millions in ransom. This one might have, as well, were it not for a brave engineer who manages to capture the Somali "captain" named Muse (Minneapolis actor Barkhad Abdi) and use him to bargain for the return of their ship.


But in a double-cross, the pirates take both the cash and Phillips aboard a lifeboat where they continue their extreme demands over a several-days long standoff which finally ends when Phillips' captors are locked in the sights of Navy Seal sharpshooters.

Even with the abduction's well known conclusion, this one was a nail-biter throughout. No epic swashbuckling, but absolute riveting adventure on the high seas.

Muse does an adequate job as the fisherman-cum-pirate who wants to collect his payday and then come to America. (He achieved half that goal: He's currently serving 33 years in a federal prison in Indiana.) His crew's desperation is evident, but the film wisely avoids rationalizing their violent actions.

Much of what makes this one so engrossing is Hanks. His even-keeled Captain Phillips is a fascinating character study. Procedural enough to lead bravely, but human enough to be terrified.

Aye, for his magnificent performance, his booty be 8-½ pounds of gold plating come March 2.

Med City Movie Guys' rating: 5 Honks

Chris Miksanek is a Rochester freelance writer. Follow him on the Center Stage blog at


Few actors have a body of work like Tom Hanks, whose performances are part of our collective culture, like "Forrest Gump" or Captain John Miller who, in "Saving Private Ryan," as in "Captain Phillips," is the everyman trying to stay collected (and alive) amid violent chaos. Here are a few of my favorite Tom Hanks films.

"Punchline" (1988) Hanks moonlights as a standup comic where he meets and mentors Sally Field, a housewife with a dream.

"Catch Me If You Can" (2002) Leonardo DiCaprio is Frank Abagnale who while still in his teens conned businesses out of millions with Hanks' FBI agent Hanratty on his heels. Directed by Steven Spielberg.

"Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" Through scavenger hunts and strangers with peripheral connections, nine-year-old Oskar learns about his father (Hanks) who died in the World Trade Center attack. One of the best films of 2011.

Others favorites include "A League of Their Own," "Apollo 13" andof course, "Big."

Readers, what's your favorite Tom Hanks film?

Visit the Center Stage blog at for more movie chat.

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