Captain Phillips (2013)

I review Captain Phillips, a 2013 drama film directed by Paul Greengrass, which is based on a true story and stars Tom Hanks.


Captain Phillips is a film that I’ve been wanting to watch for a while now. I’ve been hearing lots of praise for it and when I picked it up a few weeks ago on DVD I couldn’t wait to getting around to seeing it, but University stuff got in the way and I wasn’t able to watch it until last night. And it certainly didn’t disappoint, with Paul Greengrass knocking it out of the park with some stellar directing that really didn’t disappoint.
Based on a true story, Captain Phillips takes place in April 2009. The US Container ship Maersk Alabama is sailing towards its destination on what should be a completely normal day. Nothing is expected to go wrong, until the ship gets attacked from Somali Pirates, who take the crew and its Captain, Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks) hostage. The leader of the Somali Pirates, Muse (Barkhad Abdi) has a plan to gain millions of dollars from the capture of the ship, which is something that the Maersk Alabama doesn’t actually have access to, carrying aid and supplies to Africa along with $30,000. And so begins a race against time as Phillips has to make sure that everyone survives and returns home safely.
This has to be one of the most tense films that I’ve seen this year. Captain Phillips kept me on the edge of my seat and even though it was based on a true story, I was unfamiliar with the events concerning the film’s inspiration and therefore was in the dark as to what would happen next and it was made all the more unpredictable because of that. I really got the feeling that anything could happen and it would be very interesting indeed to see how the movie was resolved and the ending itself is more than satisfying.
Paul Greengrass is one of my go-to directors after his work on The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum and this was actually the first non-Bourne film that I’ve seen with Greengrass at the helm. He certainly didn’t disappoint with some effective use of shaky cam and more interesting approaches (such as telling the story from the perspectives of both the pirates and the crew of Maersk Alabama in the run-up to the conflict) to make you connect with both sides of the characters. There’s some impressive performances as well put in not only by Tom Hanks, with one of his strongest ever acting displays, but also from newcomer Barkhad Abdi, who plays the leader, Muse very well indeed, especially considering that it’s his debut performance. So it’s certainly safe to say that Captain Phillips is far from just Hanks’ show.
The film itself keeps building up and increasing the tension over the course of the 134 minute running time, and by the final act you will be on the edge of your seat. Like this year’s Fury, it’s one of those emotionally testing films that will leave you shaken afterwards (and that is mainly due to Hanks’ incredible performance, especially towards the end), and you certainly don’t want to go in expecting a happy, uplifting film.
Captain Phillips doesn’t waste a minute and is an excellent example of how to establish the growing sense of tension from the get go. It will pull you in and leave you unable to move from your seat until the end, and as a result, comes highly recommended.

VERDICT: 9/10
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