I’m calling it now – this film is going to the Oscars. “Captain Phillips” is a biopic of the 2009 hijacking of the U.S. container ship Maersk Alabama by Somali pirates. Paul Greengrass directs this standoff starring Tom Hanks as Captain Richard Phillips and Barkhad Abdi as Muse, the pirate who takes him hostage. From the moment the piratess head towards the unarmed ship, a standoff begins and leaves the crews in the hands of forces beyond their control.
“Captain Phillips” does an excellent job giving backstory to both Phillips’ background as well as to the pirates’ motivation for stealing from ships. Even if the audience has no interest in maritime affairs, the film intensifies from the moment the pirates take off to the final moments of the movie, leaving an effective catharsis on the audience when the U.S. Navy finally rescues the captain. The scenes are effectively intertwined and leave no dead space for the audience to get bored.
It’s no secret that Tom Hanks is an amazing actor, but this film showcases his brilliance and range. He perfectly balances a fear for his life with a determination to outsmart the pirates and get home to his family. He displays a humanness that the audience roots for the whole way through. Opposite Hanks, Barkhad Abdi dominates the role of a pirate trapped in the profession because of a war-torn country, who puts himself in an impossible position against the U.S. Navy. The depth of his character, conflicted by what is right and the need to survive, is incredible coupled with the chemistry between himself and Hanks.
The film delivers excitement all the way through, and ends in a realistic manner that leaves the largest impact on viewers. Rather than a brilliant score and Captain Phillips being reunited with his family sailing off into the sunset, Greengrass chooses to show the captain being treated for shock by a U.S. Navy nurse. The performance by Hanks in this scene alone is worth an Oscar, and caused many tears from both myself and those surrounding me in the audience. It adds a powerful reality to the film.
Featuring some cool naval operations and outstanding performances, this well-directed film is one on which to keep an eye in the coming award season. How could we expect any less from Tom Hanks?
The film is rated PG-13 for sustained intense scenes of menace, some violence with bloody images, and substance use.