Thank God for Tom Hanks

10/11/2013 12:54 PM |

Captain Phillips Tom Hanks Paul Greengrass movie

Captain Phillips: I haven’t cultivated a great interest in Paul Greengrass’s career; whether in popcorn mode or serious mode, he strives for authenticity but doesn’t make movies that ever really, well, move me, beyond the natural empathy of United 93 or Matt Damon’s anguished looks in between beatdowns (even then: I prefer Doug Liman’s Bourne Identity to its repetitive and self-serious sequels). Captain Phillips sits somewhere between United 93 and Green Zone: current-event docudrama with some movie-star charisma. Tom Hanks really is the best reason to see Phillips, which doesn’t have much to say or show about the situation; Greengrass has one of those “styles” that involves looking actually kind of generic. It’s Hanks who brings the human interest, as he tends to do, to the character and the story, especially in the first half of the movie as he must put on a cooperative face while calculating the best way to keep himself and his crew safe. Terms like humanity and decency and everyman are always thrown around to describe Hanks, but these relatable qualities mask his versatility as an actor; Phillips manages to seem like a perfect latter-day Hanks character while not particularly resembling other characters he’s played. (With the accent and uprightness, the closest would probably be his Carl Hanratty in Catch Me If You Can.) It’s not a fair comparison at all, but given the lack of actual politics in much of his work, maybe worth asking: will Greengrass ever make a movie even half that entertaining?