Paul Greengrass gave us terror in the skies in United 93 after showing us terror on land in Bloody Sunday. Now he brings us terror on the sea in Captain Phillips, a white-knuckle recreation of a real-life 2009 hijacking that, either by accident or design, plays like 'Zero Dark Thirty: The Prequel'.
Greengrass' film shares some of its chromosomes with Kathryn Bigelow's, particularly when, after two heart-stoppingly tense hours, it finally reaches its lethal endgame. For all their tactical ability, nous and rippling musculature, however, the SEALS are not the heroes here. That honour belongs to a grey-flecked, glasses-wearing, man-boobed sea salt - an ordinary Joe who, when pushed into a corner, reveals extraordinary fortitude and resilience.
Squeezing every drop of tension from wet-ink recent history, Phillips only falters when making its protagonists mouthpieces in a broader geopolitical debate. Otherwise, it’s full steam ahead to the Oscars.