Captain Phillips is more than worth a trip to the theaters as director Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Supremacy, The Bourne Ultimatum, United 93) creates an intense, emotional film based on the book, “A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS, and Dangerous Days at Sea”. Featuring an incredible performance from Tom Hanks as Captain Phillips, this film dramatically tells the events of the 2009 hijacking of the U.S. Maersk Alabama cargo ship and shows the brave actions of Phillips as he tries to keep himself and his crew alive during a dangerous crisis.
The film begins on an ordinary morning in 2009 as Captain Richard Phillips prepares for a routine trip at sea aboard the MV Maersk Alabama cargo ship. Known to most of the boat workers, ships traveling through the Indian Ocean off the coast of Somalia can be susceptible to pirate attacks, and thus there are certain regulations and emergency instructions to follow in the case of an attack. While practicing a mock emergency drill, Phillips notices two small boats several miles behind the ship that seem to be quickly closing the gap between them and the cargo ship. Once the boats are close enough to see, Phillips realizes they are carrying armed, Somali pirates. Following their emergency protocols, the crew is able to hold off the first attack, and with nightfall approaching, the pirates are forced to abandon their pursuit for the time being. The next day, four of the pirates catch up to the ship, and this is where the intensity reaches a new level, as the crew must do their best to protect the ship while staying alive.
I went into this film with little knowledge of the source material, but even for someone who knows the outcome of these real-life events, Captain Phillips does an incredible job of keeping you on the edge of your seat with one powerful scene after another and a continual “what’s going to happen next” feeling. This film presents the account in a unique way, as it seems to break the story into sections; when you think one part is coming to a close, something new happens. This technique helps keep your attention and creates a ton of extreme climactic highs and lows. The movie uses a variety of camera angles and perspectives to drag out a scene and increase the suspense.
Captain Phillips is an all around well-done film, but like anything, it has a few flaws. Most importantly, there are several far off camera shots throughout the film – mostly scenery shots, looking out to the horizon, panning across the cargo container yard, groups of naval ships, helicopters, etc. – that are obviously computer-generated. Most films have their share of CGI and special effects, but often times this is executed in a way that only compliments the finished product. Here, these shots give off a candy-like, crystalized gloss that makes the scenery very unrealistic. This is only done a few times, mostly at the beginning and end of the film, but the presence of this really bothered me amongst an otherwise great movie. Captain Phillips is also heavily dramatized for the big screen, but this doesn’t do anything but add to the quality of the film.
Aside from Hanks, the film features a mostly C-list cast with a few familiar faces. One of the greatest aspects of Captain Phillips is the performance from the Somali actors playing pirates. Everything from their language, to their clothes, to their motivations, emotions, and interactions, feels 100% authentic. In addition to this, the various procedures in operating a cargo ship, fighting off pirates, and using military action to rescue Captain Phillips is top notch. Amazingly, the director seems to create a piece that molds the execution and military action of a film like Zero Dark Thirty with the drama, intensity, and action of a “Bourne” film, and the story and worldwide impact of something like United 93, all into one. Simply put, Captain Phillips is concurrently a heart-pounding, complex thriller that dramatically sheds light on a major international issue that most of us don’t give a first thought about.
Captain Phillips features a cast that includes Tom Hanks, Catherine Keener, Michael Chernus, Chris Mulkey, Barkhad Abdi, Barkhad Abdirahman, Faysal Ahmed, Mahat M. Ali, and more. This film is rated PG-13 for sustained intense sequences of menace, some violence with bloody images, and for substance use. Running time is 2 hours and 14 minutes. Rated 4 out of 5 stars.
By: Hayden Pittman
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Tags: A Captain's Duty: Somali Pirates, and Dangerous Days at Sea, attack, Barkhad Abdi, Barkhad Abdirahman, captain, Captain Phillips, cargo, Catherine Keener, Chris Mulkey, Faysal Ahmed, Film, Hayden Pittman, hijacking, Mahat M. Ali, Michael Chernus, movie review, MV Maersk Alabama, Navy SEALS, ocean, Paul Greengrass, pirates, sea, ship, Somali, Tom Hanks, youplusdallas