Action movies can be smart? What is this? Where's my mindless explosions and skyscrapers getting run into by supervillains or giant robots?
Captain Phillips is an incredibly welcome relief from the comic book and sci-fi blockbusters that have dominated action movies over the last decade or so. It's a smart movie, thrilling in a manner reminiscent of those Tom Clancy movies of the 1990's, only better. This movie happens to be about Somali pirates taking over a freighter as it goes around the horn of Africa.
The movie is culturally nuanced, something which most action movies won't touch with a ten-foot pole. The captain of the pirate skiff that takes over the freighter is clearly supposed to be the equivalent of Tom Hanks. They're both middle managers caught between higher-ups and the crew, they're both have to deal with unruly behavior from that crew, and they are both wholly of the system that produced them. In addtion, even though the pirates don't speak our language, we come to empathize with them. They're just trying to make a living in an unfair system, one in which their best outlet is piracy. They aren't shiftless neer-do-wells, they're just people.
One of the best action movies I've seen in a long time.