In our recent list of 10 under-the-radar films to watch out for this summer, I listed the small Danish thriller “A Hijacking” as a title especially worthy of your attention. A sparse, nerve-shredding account of a Danish cargo ship held hostage by ruthless Somali pirates, it’s a must-see on its own terms — but also worth checking out as a primer (and yardstick) for this fall’s pumped-up Hollywood take on a notably similar story: Paul Greengrass’s “Captain Phillips.” Now the first trailer has arrived, and it’s a good one.
Unlike the Danish film, Greengrass’s film is based on true events: specifically, the headline-making “Maersk Alabama” hijacking of 2009, whereby an unarmed US cargo ship, 240 miles off the coast of Somalia, was seized by four Somali pirates for four days — the first time an American ship had been captured in this manner in over 200 years. Tom Hanks plays the ship’s captain, Richard Phillips, who courageously led his crew through the ordeal; the screenplay, by “Hunger Games” co-writer Billy Ray, is based on Phillips’s book “A Captain’s Duty.”
This material is an obvious fit for British director Paul Greengrass, who excels in high-stakes tension; the crisp trailer evokes the matter-of-fact procedural approach to a true-life crisis that earned him a Best Director Oscar nomination for 2006’s similarly claustrophobic “United 93.” Greengrass has since been occupied with the fictional action exploits of “The Bourne Ultimatum” and the indifferently received (though rather good) “Green Zone,” but will be looking to return to the awards conversation with this one; with super-producer Scott Rudin on board, “Captain Phillips” will surely be pursuing an Oscar campaign, pending a warm critical reception on the fall festival circuit.
If all goes to plan, that could return Tom Hanks to the Oscar race for the first time in 13 years. The two-time Best Actor winner hasn’t had much luck on the big screen of late (sorry, “Cloud Atlas” fans), but the role of Phillips is his meatiest dramatic opportunity in several years, and the trailer promises strong if necessarily understated work from the veteran. With his turn as Walt Disney in “Saving Mr. Banks” also coming up this year, and a shot at his first Tony Award for Nora Ephron’s “Lucky Guy” to boot, 2013 could usher in a bit of a Hanks career surge.
Check out the full trailer below, and tell us what you think. “Captain Phillips” opens in the US (as well as numerous European regions) on October 11.