Cinematic Thoughts for Cinematic Minds
Director: Paul Greengrass
Starring: Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdhi, Barkhad Abdiraman
Captain Rich Phillips (Hanks) is a veteran cargo ship captain from New England who routinely passes cargo far from home. Shipping cargo for the company Maersk, Phillips leads the Maersk Alabama on a course across the African coast that skirts near dangerous Somali territory. Desperate for money to pay their Elders, a gang of Somali pirates manage to intercept the ship and Phillips must do his best to make sure both the crew, and himself, survive.
Taken from the genuine account of Captain Richard Phillips of the Somali pirate hijacking he had in 2009, Captain Philips is a tense and claustrophobic thriller. The sense of enclosed space is made clear throughout with the camera always staying close to characters, particularly Tom Hanks who, as great an actor as he is, gives an uncharacteristically naturalistic performance as Phillips that makes his endeavour seem all the more harrowing. Our supporting cast is largely comprised of the Somali pirates who take Phillips hostage and who come to the screen with brilliant and desperate intensity. It’s also a credit of the writing that the pirates aren’t just faceless one-dimensional criminals but are men with somewhat sympathetic motivations, giving a sense of dramatic depth and richness.
The writing does also display some problems though. We get little sense of who the crew of the Alabama are except for Phillips, making them rather faceless and inconsequential (even if, for a brief moment, there’s potential for seeing a much darker side to them, but given these were based on real people that would’ve been too controversial) whilst the finale drags too much and a few of the elements could’ve been excised to increase the already substantial tension. There’s also controversy over the real Captain Phillips. Here, he’s portrayed largely as a level-headed hero, whilst there have been claims that the real Phillips got into that situation through recklessness and was not popular with some people who knew him. Still, if judged away from the factors of reality, this is a nail-clenching and rewarding film that pushes its 12a and PG-13 ratings to the limit.