Running Time: 2 hours 14 minutes
Director Paul Greengrass and Tom Hanks have teamed up to tell the story of the real-life events surrounding the hijacking of the Maersk Alabama cargo ship and the kidnapping of its captain by Somali pirates in the new film, Captain Phillips. In the spring of 2009 an American cargo ship leaves their port in Oman en route to Kenya when they are beset by a group of armed pirates 240 miles off of the coast of Somalia. Unarmed and unable to stop the pirates from coming aboard, Captain Richard Phillips (Hanks) orders his crew to kill the power to the ship's computers and engines and hide in the hopes that he can deal with the pirates and get them off the ship before anyone gets hurt. The hijacking doesn’t go according to plan for either the Captain or the pirates and Phillips ends up being taken as a hostage as the pirates escape on the Alabama’s lifeboat. With the US Navy closing in on them, the pirates are desperately racing to the Somali coast and Captain Phillips has to hope that help reaches him in time.
I remember when these events made international news in 2009 and one of the most frequently used descriptions of the Navy SEALS rescue of Captain Richard Phillips was that, “It was like something out of a movie”. However, the movie version of these events feels very real. Greengrass keeps the camera in tight on the actors and lets you read the emotions on their faces. There is also a very well-struck balance in the storytelling that allows us to see the humanity in both Phillips and his captors. It would have been very easy to make the pirates one dimensional sketches to play up Phillips’ stoic heroism or their villainy, but giving us a chance to relate to them makes this a much more rich experience. The four actors who play the Somali pirates had virtually no acting experience before appearing in this film and I think it helps their performances. The lack of vanity and polish in those roles lends the film much of its grit and raw-edged tension. In the wrong hands, this movie could have been loud, frantic and emotionless, but it is an intimate and thought-provoking movie that delivers Tom Hanks' best work in years. A-