Captain Phillips (2013) Directed by Paul Greengrass. With Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi, Barkhad Abdirahman, Faysal Ahmed, Mahat M.Ali and Michael Chernus.
How well you know the real story behind Paul Greengrass’ tense depiction of the hijacking of an American cargo ship, by Somali pirates, will play a part in defining your overall experience. Knowing nothing of the eventual outcome, I can honestly say, I had no nails left to bite.
One of the challenges of getting through Captain Phillips without suffering a nervous breakdown, is remaining disciplined enough to not press pause on the remote control and check Google for details. The truth is, if you can’t resist, it really won’t matter that much for Greengrass’ film is a triumph of compelling performances and exceptional staging.
With a foundation of news and documentary work under his belt, Paul Greengrass is the ideal man to tell this tale. United 93 proved his class in this field, but this director is so much more than just a join-the-dots film-maker. His work on the Jason Bourne series demonstrated just how adept his is at telling a full-throttle story, with a tinge of gritty realism akin to that of a documentary style. Greengrass doesn’t disappoint here, creating a film that feels focused and compact, giving us just the right amount of information and character.
On the subject of character, Tom Hanks is nothing short of exceptional in the title role. We all know Hanks can really deliver, given the right tone of material and here, he does just that. By the final third, it’s a genuinely moving display of raw guts and emotion from one of Hollywood’s biggest stars. As emotive as Hanks portrayal is (and it really is) the quartet of actors playing the hijackers are nothing short of sensational. Considering they have zero amount of acting experience between them, the manner in which they each hold their own against a seasoned veteran like Hanks is quite remarkable.
With believable performances and a strong sense of direction, Captain Phillips is impossible to deny. Paul Greengrass reminds us once again, what a rare talent he is, balancing humanity and tragedy with his unique ability to tell a story, on its simplest terms. Essential viewing. 5/5