“Captain Phillips” is fascinating to watch for a variety of reasons.

It’s a compelling, ripped-from-the-headlines drama that offers plenty of tension – even if you are familiar with the story. It’s a film that features a breakout performance from an unknown actor. 

It also features two established names – director Paul Greengrass and actor Tom Hanks – at the top of their respective crafts.

Based on a 2009 incident, Hanks plays the title character whose cargo ship was hijacked by pirates about 150 miles off the coast of Somalia.

The film examines the lengths Phillips went to to ensure the safety of his crew, but also shows the pirate captain Muse (Barkhad Abdi in an incredible debut) as more than just a bloodthirsty hijacker. He is a person pushed to do whatever it takes to survive, much like the man he ultimately takes hostage.

Their relationship, which actually evolves into a mutual respect, is an element I wasn’t expecting.

What I was expecting was another quality directing effort from Greengrass. Like one of his previous films “United 93,” Greengrass puts the audience in the moment, with the film feeling almost like home video than an actual re-creation. It’s a style that fits the director well, and he delivers another solid piece.

The direction is just one of the strong points in “Captain Phillips,” with Hanks’ performance another strength.

It’s the two-time Oscar winner’s best performance since “Cast Away,” full of quiet desperation that culminates in a final scene that is as stripped down and gut wrenching as any scene this year.

It’s an unforgettable moment in a film that certainly won’t be forgotten come Oscar season.

Also in theaters

This week’s other release, “Machete Kills” (B), won’t be winning any Oscars, but it is still a lot of fun.

The sequel to the 2010 cult classic is exactly what you would expect, a smorgasbord of blood and humor that fans of the genre will definitely appreciate.

The plot is preposterous, but in a good way. 

Machete (Danny Trejo) is recruited by the president (Charlie Sheen) to go into Mexico and take down an arms dealer.

The mission leads Machete to a bigger conspiracy involving a weapons manufacturer (Mel Gibson), who has plans of destroying the world and rebuilding a new society in space.

Rodriguez uses the same formula that he did in “Grindhouse” and the original “Machete,” even including a fake trailer before the film, so it’s the kind of film you either roll with or never give a chance.

I found it to be the former, a completely absurd tongue-in-cheek action film that evenly distributes the laughs and the body count.

Trejo is the perfect straight man to the all the craziness around him.

Gibson and Sheen (billed as Carlos Estevez) have a lot of fun in their respective roles, part of a strong supporting cast that includes everyone from Antonio Banderas and Sofia Vergara to Lady Gaga and Vanessa Hudgins.

“Machete Kills” certainly isn’t for everyone (judging by the opening weekend at the box office there were a lot of people who chose to skip), but if you like a mix of humor and bloodshed this is the film for you.

“Machete Kills” is rated R for strong bloody violence throughout, language and some sexual content and is now playing at the Regal Greenwood Mall Stadium 10.

— To get sportswriter/movie reviewer Micheal Compton’s thoughts on all things movies, visit his blog at mcompton.wordpress.com or his Twitter page at twitter.com/mcompton428. Email him at mcompton@bgdailynews.com.


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