When anyone hears the word “pirate”, most people commonly associate it with men who sailed the Seven Seas in search of treasure. The men were usually grotesque, with long beards and scurvy, and they would often kill and capture to get what they want. Nowadays, pirates are still an issues on the other side of the world, in places like Somalia. More often than not, you’ll hear about Somali Pirates raiding and capturing cargo ships these days. They’ve become quite a nuisance and they often get away with their piracy. That is, until a captain was taken from his ship and the U.S. NAVY and the NAVY SEALS got involved…
Captain Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks) seems like your everyday family man. He and his wife Andrea (Catherine Keener) have kids who have grown up and they live in their sweet, little home. Captain Phillips is called a captain because he commands cargo ships for large companies on the other side of the world. He’s often gone for weeks at a time and every trip is taken with precaution. As he and the crew of the US Maersk Alabama are coming around the horn of Africa, a crew of four Somali pirates find their way aboard the ship and begin to take it over.
The pirates, led by Muse (Barkhad Abdi) have come to turn the ship towards Somalia, as to exchange the crew and cargo for money. As the crew and the captain outwit the pirates, the situation escalates into a hostage transfer. Muse is captured by the crew and they want to trade him for Captain Phillips. To get the pirates off, Captain Phillips suggests that the pirates take the $30,000 in the safe and take the lifeboat off the ship. The plan seemed flawless, until the captain is forced into the lifeboat and is sent off to sea with the pirates. It’s then, the NAVY and the SEALS get involved to save him by any means necessary.
Let’s get one thing clear. Tom Hanks IS the man. While I don’t think that this was Hank’s best performance, it certainly ranks in his Top 5 in my books. He’s got an accent, he’s got the emotion and he’s going to get the Oscar nomination for Best Actor. His performance is more than solid all throughout the film, but the last 15 minutes is full of emotion and realism and you can’t help but shed a tear and feel for his character. You get a great sense of the terror that the real Captain Phillips felt when he was abducted and his time spent with the pirates is very enlightening. Hanks drives the film and regardless of whether or not you know the story, you’ll be concerned for his well-being all throughout.
Also delivering an amazing performance is Barkhad Abdi. His role as the lead pirate was nothing short of career-defining. His side of the story is one fueled by fear and not knowing another way of life. While his actions are never justified, we do get to see a human element in a character who was practically begging to go to America in the end. Abdi’s emotions and compassion for Captain Phillips try to combat those of his fellow pirates. His realization of the situation at hand and the fact that he’s relatively smarter than the other Somalian pirates make him such a diverse character that you can’t help but be intrigued by. While I don’t think that he’ll be nominated for a supporting role, I do believe that he offers one of the best this year.
Director Paul Greengrass (Bourne Supremacy, Born Ultimatum & United 93) has crafted another film that can reach out and grab hold of the audience. Captain Phillips explores the dynamics of cargo ships and the dangerous routes they takes, as well as how the NAVY gets involved in piracy issues. The result is an informative and gripping film that will have you clinging to your seat in anticipation. The editing in the film works to the director’s advantage, as it takes you back-and-forth between a dire situation and a slow-paced one that changes moods completely. You’ll find yourself forgetting what’s supposed to happen as you get sucked into the switches between Captain Phillips and the men in the NAVY. This tactic works, as I would almost forget what would inevitably happen in the end.
One of the major things that I took out of this film was the realization that not much is done to prevent pirate raids. The cargo ships have “pirate-proof” doors and whatnot, but anyone with a gun or bolt clippers can easily get past any defense that the crew has. Being so close to Somalia doesn’t help matters, as the pirates can regroup if need be. As far as physical defenses go, the cargo ships have fire hoses. There are no guns on the ship! You’d think that after all these attacks that the crew would have some weaponry on hand. I also can’t imagine that a crew of 20 men spend weeks at a time on the other side of the world, helping to move cargo in pirate “territory”. It’s a dangerous and long job and this film made me appreciate what those men do even more.
There was never a moment that lagged for me during the entirety of the film. My eyes were always glued to the screen and I was clinging to every word and every action. Greengrass’ ability to play with tension is fantastic and he will have you hooked from the get-go. Also, his ability to humanize all characters and show two sides to every story is ever-present in this film. Despite the rumors surrounding the actual Captain Phillips, the tension in this story was real and it feels like you’re right in the thick of it. The end of the film really highlights one of Hank’s best performances in one of the better films this year! Everyone should make it a point to go check out this fantastic film!
Captain Phillips Trailer