When you think of a movie about pirates, hooks and eye patches leap to mind, not the infinitely more harrowing story told here. This film recounts the true story of the hijacking of an American cargo ship by Somali pirates in 2009, and the heroic efforts of the captain to save the cargo and the crew.

Rich Phillips (Tom Hanks), a cautious and experienced commercial ship captain, is hired to oversee the Maersk Alabama around Cape Horn. When a group of Somali pirates first approach, he is deft at fending them off without weapons. Upon their return, however, he cannot prevent them from commandeering the ship. As one can well imagine, the U.S. government, for myriad reasons, does not take kindly to the act.

In the hands of a lesser cast and director, this movie would come off as the matter-of-fact story of a giant squashing a bug. However, director Paul Greengrass creates a compelling film that is engaging without being preachy or didactic. Tom Hanks is, as always, stellar; and first-time actor Barkhad Abdi is moving as the villain/victim of the story. Don’t get me wrong, this is hardly Jean Valjean stealing a loaf of bread to feed his family, but the situation is far from clean-cut. It’s a 7.

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