Captain Phillips is a multi-layered examination of the 2009 hijacking of the U.S. container ship Maersk Alabama by a crew of Somali pirates. It is – through director Paul Greengrass’s distinctive lens – simultaneously a pulse-pounding thriller, and a complex portrait of the myriad effects of globalization. The film focuses on the relationship between the Alabama’s commanding officer, Captain Richard Phillips (two time Academy Award®-winner Tom Hanks), and the Somali pirate captain, Muse (Barkhad Abdi), who takes him hostage. Phillips and Muse are set on an unstoppable collision course when Muse and his crew target Phillips’ unarmed ship; in the ensuing standoff, 145 miles off the Somali coast, both men will find themselves at the mercy of forces beyond their control.
In Theaters: October 11, 2013; MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for sustained intense sequences of menace, some violence with bloody images, and for substance abuse); Genres: Drama, Adaptation; Run time: 2 hours, 13 minutes
Director: Paul Greengrass
Writers: Billy Ray (screenplay), Richard Phillips (based upon the book “A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS, and Dangerous Days at Sea” by), Stephan Talty
Stars: Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi, Barkhad Abdirahman, Faysal Ahmed, Mahat M. Ali, Michael Chernus, Catherine Keener, David Warshofsky, Corey Johnson
Wow, just Wow! This is definitely the best movie I’ve seen so far this year. Me and Lay went to see this last Saturday, and I’ve gotta tell you, it rang as true story-telling.
Hanks, playing Captain Phillips, gives his usual outstanding performance. He shows raw emotion with absolute authenticity. You can sometimes feel the pain. He’s never a super-hero in the movie. He’s a guy trying to do his duty, save his crew, and save himself. Matching him while trying to keep his own wits about him is Abdi as the skinny, intelligent Muse, seemingly a veteran of high piracy (though not against huge container ships). Abdi is a wonder to watch; unpredictable and cunning but a little greedy and rapidly running out of viable options. This first time actor nails this role.
The story unfolds in three distinct acts. The first is in the Somali village of the pirates where we get a gritty view of what life is like for these folks, and what motivates them to work the seas as pirates. The second act is the time spent by the pirates on the Maersk as they search in vain for treasure and crew, and the third act is the time spent in the ship’s lifeboat as Phillips and the pirates make their way to Somalia. The villains are conflicted and desperate. And armed. But they’re quickly immersed in an impossible situation.
The action starts very quickly, with the setup for the story just enough to give us an understanding of how this all works. The tension begins within minutes of the start of the film, and while obviously compressed, you really feel like you’ve spent several days on the hijacked shipped and crammed into the lifeboat. The screen play is amazing capturing the scale of everything that is taking place. I was on the edge of seat from about 10 minutes in, right to the end of the movie.
If you don’t see anything else, see this movie.