By Mike Dyer, Staff Writer
Based on the events of the 2009 Maersk Alabama hijacking, “Captain Phillips” tells the story from the perspective of Captain Richard Phillips. With excellent casting and directing, “Captain Phillips” has action and suspense that sails right of the screen, managing to keep you glued to your seat and guessing to the very end.
Tom Hanks plays the title role of Richard Phillips, who is contracted to command the MV Maersk Alabama cargo freighter from port in Oman to Mombasa, Kenya. The route takes the ship through the Gulf of Aden and the pirate-heavy waters off the coast of Somalia. After just a few days at sea, the Alabama comes under assault from Somali pirates led by Abduwali Muse (Barkhad Abdi). After some quick maneuvering led by Phillips, the Alabama is able to outrun the pirates. However, they return the next day in a faster boat, manage to hook a ladder on the ship and climb aboard carrying assault weapons. Soon after, they reach the control tower and take control of the ship. At this point “Captain Phillips” starts to play as one of the best, if not the best, hostage movie I have ever seen.
While the scenes of the high jacking are tense, the story does not get going until Phillips successfully lures the pirates into the enclosed lifeboat. This is a testament to the cleverness of Phillips and his crew. Unfortunately for Phillips, he is taken against his will into the life boat as well just before the pirates launch the life boat into the water. As a result, the U.S. Military arrive on the scene and follow the life boat as negotiations with the pirates for the life of Phillips begin.
As the second half of the film takes place mostly inside the enclosed life boat the story is carried by the stellar performances of Tom Hanks as Captain Richard Phillips and Barkhad Abdi. Hanks’ performance is raw and full of emotion, yet he is still able to convey the cleverness of his character. For me the only thing taking away from his performance is his portrayal of a Boston accent, which honestly the film could have done without. A native Somalian, Abdi is perfectly cast as he looks and speaks the language of the part. He is so believable, you could say that he even outshines Hanks simply because he is new and unknown to the public. Hanks’ achievement is really shown at the end of the film when Phillips’ starts to display symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Both actors’ portrayals are Oscar worthy.
“Captain Phillips” was directed by Paul Greengrass who is perhaps best known as the director who helmed the last two films of the initial Jason Bourne trilogy. Like the Bourne films Greengrass’ utilizes a gritty, handheld look that is effective, especially during the scenes inside the lifeboat. Greengrass successfully presents the story in a style that almost feels like a documentary fueled by intense action and stellar performances. All these elements blend to result in a film, based on a true story, which is sure to keep you invested until the credits roll.