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Captain Phillips – Review


Release Date: 11th October 2013
Director: Paul Greengrass
Writer: Billy Ray
Cast: Tom Hanks – Barkhad Abdi – Barkhad Abdirahman - Catherine Keener



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Posted February 13, 2014 by

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Captain Phillips Review:

Over the last few years there have been a number of reports regarding merchant ships being captured or waylaid by pirates. These occurrences caused shockwaves in the global media.

Captain Phillips’ is the story of the crew aboard the Maersk. The title of the film comes from the exploits of their captain, portrayed by Tom Hanks. The Maersk is on route to Mombasa with their cargo, when they come across Muse (Barkhad Abdi) and his band of pirates. What follows is two hours of tense, riveting and suspenseful action as we follow the crew’s attempts to evict the pirates, and then the captain’s solo ordeal.

I readily admit that I was hesitant to watch this film. I am averse to capitalising on the sufferings of others, especially when Hollywood does the capitalising, and the story is recent. It is disturbing. These people exist, are alive, and their ordeals are probably fresh in their minds; I can’t imagine it’s very comfortable to see the same on the big screen. But, that is probably just my rather narrow view of things. I also believe that stories need to be told – the right ones, if there’s anyone in particular who decides that.

The film is based on the book of the actual event “A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS, and Dangerous Days at Sea” and some people have mentioned that the view of the captain is a bit idealised.

I can’t comment on how true-to-reality this film is, but, I can assure you that it is a thoroughly enjoyable viewing. Paul Greengrass’ best known works are two instalments of the Bourne films as well as ‘The Green Zone’. This style certainly seeps into his direction in ‘Captain Phillips’. The first forty-five minutes are rife with a startling tension and kinetic action. Even the following lull period is suspenseful and the last act is emotional and thrilling.

But what sets this film apart is the inclusion of an almost sympathetic understanding of the pirates and their situation. Granted, we cannot root for them, but they are not portrayed as mindless, evil villains either. Even our protagonist is not perfect, as his stoic decision to remain on course leads to the events in the film.

The film has received a number of Oscar nominations, and it is no surprise. It has an outstanding chance at the sound awards. It’s fascinating to see first-time actor Barkhad Abdi among the nominees. I actually wish there had been a way to nominate all four of the actors playing the pirates. They each portrayed their characters in distinctive ways giving more than just names to their roles. It was fascinating to watch. First-timers don’t often win at the Oscars, but I see Abdi’s star on the rise. It’s a pity Tom Hanks didn’t get nominated. He plays it pretty straight for most of the film, but really comes into his own during the denouement. He knows how to fill out an emotional scene and the ending is particularly striking.

Despite it being about a true life ordeal, the film is strikingly enjoyable and a true thriller. Yes, admittedly some of the account is fictionalised, but it remains true to the spirit of the situation. It’s definitely a surprise choice for the Academy, primarily due to its action-based nature. But the balanced view and pacey editing make this one a must-watch.

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Lestat de Lioncourt
Random Thoughts – Lestat’s Blog
Freelance Contributor

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