Captain Phillips




Tom Hanks is an actor who is hard not to like. He is our everyman, and it's easy to compare him to Jimmy Stewart for his appeal to the masses of moviegoers. He could be your dad, uncle, friend, brother, neighbor or husband. It's easy rooting for him, because he makes you care for this man who seems grounded and so genuine and real.

Based on the true story of Captain Richard Phillips and his crew aboard the freighter: Maersk Alabama, which was hijacked off the coast of Africa by Somali pirates; this is a gripping film expertly directed by Paul Greengrass, who had previously made the last two Bourne movies with Matt Damon, and the harrowing account of the passengers of the plane that had crashed on 911 in Pennsylvania: Flight 93. Greengrass has a very upfront, you are there,shaky handheld camera style of filming, that is very effective in giving you the impression that you are watching something documented at times  instead of a movie. It is an added level of reality that he incorporates to heighten the tension; and it works. It starts off, simple enough, with Phillips (Tom Hanks), at his home with his wife (Catherine Keener), as they are leaving their Vermont home to head to the airport. There Phillips will board a plane, to fly him to where his ship is docked, and travel down a dangerous course in the Indian Ocean to deliver aid supplies to Mombassa. We are in the back seat as they go and talk about the trip, their kids, and normal everyday things we discuss. They feel like a real couple.

Cut to another world: Somalia, as the local warlord’s soldiers come into a village with machine guns looking to threaten the young men if they don’t go out and find ships to board on the open waters. They haven’t produced and their bosses wants goods. Parties are formed on the beach, and these desperate men gather into small skiffs and head out to open water, ready to find a vessel to hijack. Here we meet Muse (Barkhad Abdi) who looks like a skeleton of the young man he should be. He may be skinny, but he is bold and he is determined that he and the small group he has gathered, will find a ship and get on it. These are not bad people per se, but they are desperate, and they have no choice. This is his life.

After arriving in port, Captain Phillips greets his crew, inspects his ship, and then reads an email warning of a heightend threat of pirates in the vicinity. They head out and even carry out a drill to practice the protocol  if such an incident should occur. It is all very standard and normal, and I must say that the fact that the crew is made up of mostly actors you have never seen, adds to the effect the filmmakers are going after. This did happen; let’s put you there there, and then,what would you do? They have no weapons; and when during the middle of a drill, two small craft are spotted on radar speeding towards them, Phillips knows that this is not good.

The pirates do indeed get on board the ship after a failed attempt at spraying water hoses at them. For some reason, the crew is not allowed to have firearms on board. When the pirates do gain access to the bridge of the ship, and confront the captain and his few crew members who aren’t hiding in the engine room, it is apparent these two groups of men are alien to each other in every possible way. The tension is high because of the  emotions of the situation and the language barrier. The pirates are desperate men, and the crew are scared.

Hanks, who is always good in what he does, is very reserved and low key as Captain Phillips. He is trying to maintain his cool, follow protocol the best he can, and when he can’t do that, he relies on a sort of cat and mouse with Muse; pretending that he doesn’t know where most of his crew are, or why the power has gone out on the ship, to try and outsmart him and his men into a trap. Both characters look appropriately afraid of what is playing out in front of them, unable to stop it, and knowing full well, that any moment, this will be a matter of life and death. Once a US destroyer is deployed to the area, and later Navy SEALS: the film ratchets up another to another level as the pirates and Phillips as their hostage, all board a lifeboat with the plans of bringing him to Somalia .

History has told us what happens next, but Greengrass’s film never the less will have you riveted as you see how this ordeal plays itself out. When the military shows up, it feels a bit more like a movie, as the score becomes a bit more apparent, but it is gripping. This is a great debut by all of the actors playing the pirates. The two that stand out are: (Barkhad Abdirahmanas) as the highly agitated Bilal, and (Barkhad Abdi) as Muse; they are totally convincing.

What Hanks holds back as far as emotions with Phillips, comes gushing out in a tidal wave,as after the ordeal, covered in blood, being examined by medics, and in a high state of shock; he is asked if it is his blood on him. What happens next will ace him as a certain Best Actor nominee again, and as the emotions pour out, the music builds, and this film will exhale. It is a gut punch end to an expertly crafted film of this incident. You Should See this Movie!


Watch the trailer: