Captain Phillips has sailed gently into the Oscars race this year, creeping up on Twelve Years a Slave, American Hustle and Gravity with a handful of positive screenings at the festivals and praise for its leading man, Tom Hanks.

Captain PhillipsTom Hanks As Captain Phillips 

The movie, by thriller aficionado Paul Greengrass, tells the true story of merchant mariner Captain Richard Phillips, who was taken by hostage by Somali Pirates during the Maersk Alabama hijacking in 2009. It's adapted from Phillips' own book A Captain's Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs, and Dangerous Days at Sea.

As mentioned, it's received critical acclaim ahead of its release this week, especially at the New York Film Festival. 

"Both Greengrass and Hanks are on award-deserving form in a riveting, emotionally complex and hugely intelligent dramatisation of a real-life ordeal," said Empire magazine.

"In Big, Hanks gave us a boy who became a man overnight; now, in Captain Phillips, he gives us a man so shaken and sickened by adventure that for a while, despite himself, he turns back into a child," wrote the New Yorker.

"What Greengrass excels at is action - taut and visceral - and it happens as soon as the captain suddenly looks at a screen and sees two small dots moving toward the ship," came the praise from the Associated Press.

"One of the year's best films," summed up the New York Post.

Tom Hanks Captain PhillipsTom Hanks Turns In An Assured Performance in 'Captain Phillips'

At this stage in 2012, we already knew the winner of Best Actor at the Oscars - Daniel Day Lewis, for Lincoln. The game was up for the others. However, this year presents a whole new ball game and one of the most open races for the statuettes in years.

As it stands, Chiwetel Ejiofor of Twelve Years A Slave is the bookmakers' favorite, though most of the praise for that film is being heaped upon director Steve McQueen. Robert Redford is a curious second favorite. He single handily helmed All Is Lost, though it's been years since Redford was seriously considered at the Academy Awards. 

Elsewhere, Matthew McConaughey is in with a chance for The Dallas Buyers Club, Bruce Dern is fancied for Nebraska, and there's always Leonardo DiCaprio for The Wolf of Wall Street, though we know all about his Oscars record.

Captain PhillipsThe Somali Pirates In Paul Greengrass' Captain Phillips

With Idris Elba seemingly out of the race following poor reviews of A Long Walk to Freedom, we are left with Hanks. The 8/1 shot for the Oscar and a man who comes equipped with something oh very sought after - a story that the Academy likes. Captain Phillips is the tale of American stoicism, heroism and strength. It echoes last year's winner, Argo, in its themes and with a lack of historical biopics in the running for this year's major prizes, it could be Greengrass' and Hanks' year.

Check out the Captain Phillips international trailer here: