Breathless. Based on a real life story, this is about how Captain Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks) defended his cargo ship when Somali pirates were inbound with the intent of performing a hijacking. Now I really liked this movie when it first came out, and I was honestly somewhat surprised that I did. I don’t consider myself to be the world’s biggest Paul Greengrass fan, and with the exception of United 93, I usually find myself wishing that he brought a steadicam to the party more than anything (the Bourne movies just give me motion sickness the majority of the time). But I really connected with Captain Phillips, and as time has gone on, this has done nothing but appreciate, and I now consider it to be one of my favorites to the point that I will stop whatever it is that I am doing if it pops up on cable.
And who better to lead front and center in this than Tom Hanks?
Now this is based on a true story, and I do understand that Hollywood is quick to sensationalize a real life story; from what I hear, the real life Captain Phillips wasn’t nearly as heroic as he is portrayed here. But you know what? It makes for damn good storytelling, and I am perfectly content with them making edits to make a more gripping tale. It’s Tom Hanks vs. Somali Pirates, and up until the point of this release, nobody had seen any of these pirate actors before. It feels as authentic as can be, almost like they went out and cast actual Somali pirates. The leader of the pirates is highly intelligent, and it ends up playing like a game of sea chess, with each side trying to be 3 steps ahead of the other. Apart from Hanks, it is really Barkhad Abdi that sells it, and even though it’s likely to be the highlight of his career, he’s so excellent, you want to see him in more roles, if only to see the full range of what he is capable of.
LOOK AT ME.
Once Captain Phillips gets started, it slows down for no man. The stakes always feel high, and you are in the moment from start to finish. I am honestly not bothered if the story was exaggerated out of proportion, it’s filmmaking that flat-out works, and there is always a sense of danger, given how unhinged and relentless the captors are. It is two movies when you break it down, one on the cargo ship and the other on the life boat, and they are both great for their own reasons. Captain Phillips is not for the faint of heart, and it is something that you should absolutely take the time to watch if you haven’t already.
Captain Phillips (2013) *****
– Critic for Hire