The script, adapted from the book written by the actual protagonist, is not romanticized or glossed over with overreaching sentiment, and Greengrass' direction matches it with a style that is consistently tenacious.
While I find it a little strange that it's been getting as much awards attention as it has, it's still worth taking a look at for Greengrass' intense direction and a story that will have your eyes glued to the screen. For most of it at least.
Captain Phillips is indeed a gripping, grueling, agonizing, nail-biting, brutalizing, kick-punching motion picture, but beyond the technical thrills and vise-grip tension, it also offers a weary, hard-won empathy.
Captain Phillips repeatedly underlines the Navy's brilliance, and also the contest between Rich and Muse, their exchanged looks in a tight, hot space suggesting they might share a burden. But they can't.
Over and over in this movie we hear variations on the phrase "everything's going to be OK." It's just impossible to head out of the theater and back into the wider world believing that's actually true.