“Captain Phillips” reincarnates the real-life event from 2009 when the U.S.-registered cargo ship Maersk Alabama was boarded by four Somali pirates. The drama escalates when the pirates captured and held the captain of ship, Richard Phillips for five days before Navy SEALs came into action. The rest is another heroic story but is not without its own controversial for the false representation of the real event itself. But that is not the story of the day.
Directed by The Bourne Ultimatum helmer, Paul Greengrass’ signature shots and styles are scattered all over the movie with some great script from Billy Ray who adapts Phillips’ own memoir. Once again, Greengrass spouts the film into life through the well-mannered handheld camera technique that not only captures the intensity of the story, but also translating it into a form of expressionist high sea thriller on its own merit. The capture of authenticity is real and is indeed suspenseful.
Paul Greengrass, much like his works in “United 93” opens the movie by presenting two indifferent tales about the two parties. One, in the stateside New England where Richard is talking with his wife (Catherine Keener) about the bleak economic future that their children may face, while on the other, we see Muse (Barkhad Abdi) under the order of local warlord is recruiting fellow Somali to pirate the international water. There should not be much for the details to be exposited as the local sentiment and society attitude pretty much speak for the conflict that’s to come.
The two finally meets on the open water at the coast of Somalia. Phillips is trying at every best possible to dispel the pirate skiffs, for which Muse assumes the role of Coast Guard to trick his way onto the ship. Not a pressurized water hoses are able to stop the bandit. Once onboard, Phillips offer a vault saving available on the ship but the pirates demand more. Soon, situation escalates into a cat and mouse hunt that culminates with a hostage situation.
To add into the class, Tom Hanks is back for his best performance since 2002’s “Road to Perdition”, portraying the titular character with absolute commandeer. Truly, it is hard to imagine how this brilliant actor will be left out from this year’s Best Actor race. And that moving scene when Phillips is receiving medical treatment at the end, says it all. Playing equally and supremely well on the opposite is Barkhad Abdi, a Somali-born American whose debut performance in this film is fitted with amazing nuance that allows his character to stay sharpie and subtle.
There are concerns about how this movie clocks at a lengthy 134 minutes will come to terms of sustaining its level of excitement. Indeed, these concerns are pretty much propounded by now. The scene where Phillips and pirates clinging on the capsule lifeboat in the third act is at times is quite diminishing to the momentum. The scene basically is just amplification of what we have already seen in the earlier scenes. But then again, if it is not for the exchange of the two leads, this could have been a jagged part of the movie.
“Captain Phillips” is not entirely a groundbreaking movie but given to the circumstances, this adaptation to one of the most controversial stories of this recent is entirely thrilling, intense, well-acted and well-made to highlight the main themes of economic and authority fears. Paul Greengrass proves himself as an incredible story-teller with Tom Hanks and Barkhad Abdi are stunning in their roles.