Review of 'Captain Phillips'

captain_phillips.jpg Based on a real story, Captain Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks) works for the shipping company Maersk. Tasked with piloting a container ship Maersk Alabama from Oman to Mombasa, Kenya they pass by the coast of Somalia. Somalia is in turmoil with local warlords providing a lucrative source of income for the deprived fisherman: Piracy. Phillips had been warned of piracy in the area and soon enough two fast moving boats approach the Alabama. Initially they are able to evade the group of pirates headed by Muse (Barkhad Abdi) but it is only a matter of time before they board the boat, seeking to ransom the boat, cargo and crew. As tensions mount and the tide turns, this is only going to end one way…

An enthralling yet horrifying story of modern day piracy told in a surprisingly balanced way: The local people with little choice in how to make money and the crew of the Maersk Alabama just wanting to do their job rather than play at being heroes. Hanks is the main focus here as we are frequently shown his eyes studying the situation to figure out what needs to be done and towards the end of the film it is horror in the inevitable we see there as well. Often he says nothing but speaks volumes with his look. But with this, he is a hero only in the sense that he drives the plot forward rather with only a few modest heroic acts as he seeks to protect his crew. It is through his eyes that we see the action unfold.

For such a violent story there is surprisingly little of it here though when it comes it is swift and brutal. The end of the film does tend to drag inexorably to a climax in which we have the ultimate tragedy in which no one really wins. Throughout it feels very real – The characters, the setting, the story, everything. It is very easy to be drawn into the film that is compassionately shot though never descends into commentary instead letting us make up our own minds. In some ways, quite contrary to a typical Hollywood film.

A very human film that inexorably leads to a horrific finale. All the more tragic for the fact that this is a real story.

Rating: “I have absolutely no complaints”

Review Date: 2021-07-19

Directed by: Paul Greengrass

Studio: Scott Rudin Productions

Year: 2013

Length: 134 minutes

Genre: Action/Adventure

Other reviewed films by Paul Greengrass: