Tom Hanks' Oscar-tipped Captain Phillips is in cinemas now. Harry Guerin gives his verdict.

When was the last time a Tom Hanks film was a must-see? Some of us will go back as far as Road to Perdition in 2002, others Castaway in 2000 or Saving Private Ryan in 1998.

Well, Hanks is back to his best with Captain Phillips: an incredible true story; a contender for white knuckle thriller of the year and a brilliant union between star and director with a boatload of Oscar nominations - director, actor, supporting actor, film, script, cinematography, editing, sound - guaranteed.

A mariner of 30 years standing, Phillips (Hanks) was captain of the MV Maersk Alabama when it was attacked by Somali pirates in April 2009 while en route to Mombasa, Kenya. With only hoses and their wits as weapons, the chances of the Alabama's crew repelling the pirates seem slim. This is their first experience of a hijack situation; for the men in the skiffs it's a full-time job.

To reveal any more about what transpired would be to do Philipps, his onscreen portrayer and the man who brought their worlds together an injustice. What you should know is that from the moment Hanks sees ominous blips on the radar the pace is relentless and your own anxiety increases by the minute.

As he showed with his Bourne films and United 93, director Paul Greengrass is a master of both the unbearably edgy, hand-held set-piece and heart-rending human drama. Here both are combined in a story which interweaves the financial predicament of the working man with the will to survive life's worst.

In a brave and complacency-shattering move, Greengrass humanises the hijackers, showing them to be victims of economic forces - just like those they are aiming the AK-47s at. Crime on the high seas has its share of workplace politics, too.

Playing head honcho Muse, Barkhad Abdi delivers a stunning performance which engenders both sympathy and spite, a brilliant adversary for Hanks' extraordinary average bloke. A star is born and another reborn.

This is one of those rare films where repeat viewings in years to come will not lessen the tension or fear as to how the story will conclude. Don't get left on the quayside.