The word “pirate” often conjures images of one-legged, bearded men with parrots on their shoulders, but as director Paul Greengrass shows in his tense new film, modern-day pirates are far more terrifying.
Inspired by real events, Captain Phillips tells the story of Richard Phillips (superbly played by Tom Hanks), a seasoned captain whose container ship the Maersk Alabama was hijacked by Somali pirates in 2009 – the first American cargo ship to be captured in 200 years.
With his crew hiding on board and facing four heavily armed men, a quick-thinking Phillips strikes up a tenuous relationship with the pirate’s leader, Muse, and is soon drawn into a stand-off which will push both men to their limits.
A suitably weathered Hanks shines as Captain Phillips, a loving family man whose routine life is shaken by these unthinkable events; he handles the emotional demands of this role with ease, delivering a powerhouse performance worthy of an Oscar.
An emaciated Barkhad Abdi plays Muse, the eerily calm and extremely dangerous leader of the pirate crew, and his sunken eyes and prominent cheekbones give him a truly frightening appearance which enhances his performance. Muse is a desperate young man who is clearly in over his head, and from the moment he boards the Alabama his life is set on a collision course which will have tragic consequences for himself, his crew and Phillips.
Hanks and Abdi feed off each other’s energy, creating a tense atmosphere which hangs over the film like a dark cloud. Michael Chernus plays Phillips’ right-hand man, Shane Murphy, while Max Martini delivers a noteworthy performance as the Navy Seals Commander charged with rescuing Phillips.
Greengrass opens the film with footage of the captain preparing for his journey – packing his bags, planning his route, kissing his wife goodbye – and these fragments help remind the audience that Phillips was an ordinary man who was thrust into extraordinary circumstances.
The film also provides a glimpse of the lives of the Somali pirates, many of whom live in villages controlled by criminals and warlords, with these outside forces motivating their actions. Greengrass is to be applauded for his attempts to highlight the bigger issues surrounding piracy.
From the moment you set sail, Captain Phillips will have you on the edge of your seat and questioning the safety of your next sea voyage. Masterfully crafted with a stellar cast, it is a testament to the bravery of the men aboard the Alabama – a truly intense viewing experience.
More InDaily film reviews:
Metallica: Through the Never
Tim Winton’s The Turning
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