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'Captain Phillips' finds Tom Hanks on solid, award-worthy ground

Critic's Pick: Tom Hanks is back in Oscar play with his captured-at-sea turn in 'Captain Phillips.'

November 26, 2013|By Betsy Sharkey
  • Tom Hanks stars in "Captain Phillips."
Tom Hanks stars in "Captain Phillips." (Hopper Stone, Columbia…)

There is a kind of reassuring steadiness to Tom Hanks' acting. Even in the silliness of "Big," the time-shifting comedy that turned a boy into a man, he was zany, not outrageous. Sincerity made "Sleepless in Seattle" and his widowed young father impossibly romantic. His entrenched decency in "Philadelphia" helped push AIDS into the mainstream conversation and won Hanks an Oscar in 1994. His second Oscar came a year later for the masterful simplicity of "Forrest Gump." There have been fallow years as the actor struggled to find his middle-aged niche. "Captain Phillips" seems to be an answer. It certainly puts him in Oscar play again. As the skipper of a cargo ship hijacked by Somali pirates, his performance is the embodiment of courage under fire. Based on the real-life rescue of Maersk Alabama Capt. Richard Phillips by Navy SEALs, director Paul Greengrass keeps Hanks' captain in the pressure cooker almost from the beginning. And when, the ordeal over, the captain is wracked by sobs, you sense it was a career, as well as a crew, that was rescued.

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