LOS ANGELES - "Forrest Gump" and "Castaway" star Tom Hanks again plays an everyday guy thrust into exceptional circumstances in "Captain Phillips," a true story of a cargo ship hijacked by Somali pirates.
Directed in hyper-realistic style by British director Paul Greengrass - whose "United 93" reconstructed a 9/11 hijacking drama - the movie looks like a contender possibly for multiple Oscar nominations.
The film, based on "A Captain's Duty," the autobiography by the real Captain Richard Phillips, tells the story of the US-flagged Maersk Alabama, attacked off the coast of Somalia by pirates in 2009, the first American ship to be hijacked in 200 years.
After their bid to to take the entire crew hostage fails, the pirates instead kidnap only the captain, taking him off into a sealed lifeboat. The story, which played out in real time in April 2009, ends with the heroic captain being saved by US Navy SEALS, and three of the four pirates killed. The other was arrested and brought to justice in the United States.
Greengrass, using his trademark documentary style, treats the story as a thriller, focusing on the tension between Captain Phillips and the pirate leader Muse (played by Barkhad Abdi).
"What moments of crisis do is create a ballet of tension building up. You have to capture that ratcheting up, as accurately as you can," the Briton said ahead of the film's US release this Friday.
"If you can do it, you can get something that's underneath that, which is common humanity and compassion," he added.
The director, who also made two of the blockbuster "Bourne" movies, prevented the actors playing the four pirates from meeting those playing the crew before the assault scenes were filmed, to increase tension.
Some of the Somali actors, unknowns who had turned up for an open casting for the film, only met Hanks for the first time when playing those scenes.