Captain Phillips (2013)

Genre: Action, Adventure, Biography

Director: Paul Greengrass

Writers: Billy Ray, Richard Phillips, Stephan Talty

Starring: Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi, Barkhad Abdirahman

Rating: ★★★★★

Captain Phillips is surprisingly tense and thrilling. There are moments in this film where you feel your spine tingle slightly. There’s no simple way in which you can describe the brilliance of Captain Phillips, but for a film that only focuses on one event, place and time for two and a quarter hours it keeps you unbelievably engaged and entertained.  The screenplay has been amazingly adapted from both the book and the real life event of 2009 capturing the real horror and terror created. Tom Hanks also shows again why he is regarded as one of the all-time best actors of the last couple decades. Captain Phillips is a serious contender for being named as one of the best releases of 2013 as it is technically and visually faultless.

We follow the true story of the 2009 hijacking by Somali pirates of an American cargo ship captained by Captain Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks). Setting off to the Airport from home Phillips kisses his wife a fearful goodbye with the promise he’ll keep in touch.  Out at sea 145 miles off the Somali coast it’s a whole different story and world as there has already been warnings and signs of an attack. A small group of armed pirates then attempt to hijack the ship. Unarmed and defenceless Captain Phillips’s hopes of protecting himself, his cargo and his crew are short lived. Once aboard they demand a huge ransom sum, but Phillips’s plan and the crews survival techniques anger the pirates Captain, Muse, eventually resulting in Captain Phillips being taken hostage. The film then focuses on the stand-off between both fearful captains, Phillips and Muse as the pair float towards the coast in a small rescue pod. With the US Seals trailing and preparing a strategic and tactical rescue, the men on board all wait for their destiny in fear of their lives, creating some breath-taking edge of your seat action.

Surprisingly I found myself like many others in the cinema in fear and worry as the Somalis boarded the ship. It was a tense moment, the score both diegetic and non-diegetic really added to the atmosphere and created some realism as the crashing waves and shouting somewhat created the feel of panic and isolation. It’s the fact that Captain Phillips is based on a real-life event and one that is not only possible but common that we buy into the story so soon and so much. It deserves much credit to how well adapted the film is to correctly and successfully portray the real-life event as well as the book written by the man in the front seat of it all.

Director Paul Greengrass has also orchestrated a phenomenal visual display. The look and quality Captain Phillips obtains is outstanding and the way Greengrass has filmed certain scenes is brilliant. The “chase” scenes where the pirates hunt down Phillips’s “sitting duck” of a Cargo Ship are extremely tense, making for a fast-paced set of action. The cinematography is also great; the shots taken inside the rescue pod truly capture the fearful tension and atmosphere.

As we have seen many times in the past and throughout his career Tom Hanks displays yet another award-worthy and surely award-winning performance that really makes this film so successful. At times you feel like crying when watching the pain expressed upon his face. The final scene shows Phillips in “shock-mode”, hysterical, trembling and in tears of fear and relief, hairs start to stand up on your neck and a shiver runs down your back. I really can’t recall watching many better or many more believable scenes from Hanks or anyone for that matter. As Richard Phillips watches this, a film based on the most horrific moment of his life even he would be surprised on how realistic Hank’s performance was. The pirates themselves too deserve a huge amount of credit, adapting well and presenting such intimidation was amazing considering their lack of acting experience.

Captain Phillips is flawless, there was not one error or moment in the film that I would have changed or did I dislike. Its again amazing how cinema can have such an impact on you and your emotions, not many times have I left the cinema speechless despite wanting to blurt out so much praise. Captain Phillips is again a prime example of a film advertising the beauty of cinema; I can only hope that it receives the praise, credit and awards it deserves. I would highly recommend watching it before its cinema life ends, as no doubt will the viewing experienced be heightened and more enjoyable on the “big screen”. Captain Phillips is one of the best releases of 2013, enjoy it, experience it and live it.