“Captain Phillips” | Movie Review

captain-phillips-2013-1Overall Grade: (A+)

Riveting story-telling and as usual a perfect performance from Tom Hanks, will help this one to go down as one of the great drama-suspense tales in Hollywood. 

Based on the book titled, “A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS, and Dangerous Days at Sea” by Richard Phillips and Stephan Talty comes “Captain Phillips” directed by Paul Greengrass.

Based on the true story of the 2009 hijacking of the Maersk Alabama, 145 miles off the coast of Somalia. The first U.S. cargo ship to be hijacked in two-hundred years. This film chronicles the attack of the ship and the subsequent stand-off at sea between the Navy S.E.A.L.S. and the pirates who are holding Captain Phillips (Tom Hanks) hostage.

“Captain Phillips” was without a doubt a well crafted and suspenseful tale of the true events it is based on. Not only did it bring all the intrigue and intensity to the events of 2009, but I feel the writers did an excellent job of conveying the reasoning behind the attacks. The effects of globalization in the world, and the varying results that take affect in different countries. This does not make you sympathize with the attackers by any means, but what it does excellently, is express the desperation of the pirates to succeed. Something that was only magnified by the excellent performances of the Somalian actors.

By the time the first-act is concluding, and moments before the hijacking begins, you are already fully intrigued with the tensity of the situation. As well as the hopelessness of the crew aboard the Maersk Alabama. As the film progresses the interactions between the pirates and the crew are intense, you really never know what will happen, despite knowing the outcome of the (real-life) event.

Once the pirates and their hostage Captain Phillips reach the lifeboat and are suddenly faced with a pure hostage situation between themselves and the U.S. Navy the tension only increases. The orchestration of the scenes manage to tell all sides of the story in a clean crisp fashion without seeming at all choppy.


The acting in this film was also excellent. Tom Hanks was his usually talented self and clearly delivered a convincing role of the Captain-held-hostage. The true strength of this film was the performance of the Somalian pirates, in particular Barkhad Abdi. His cold calculating delivery of his lines was incredible and the group gave performances that made them more than simple antagonists. The fact the script was excellently written only added to the overall intrigue and captivation.

The cinematography is also at the top of its game. Director Paul Greengrass manages to find all the excellent angles while out at sea to express the size and scope of the hijacking as well as the following standoff. Also when the story takes you to the lifeboat you can feel the confined space from close up angles and subtle, but jarring camera movement. It perfectly places you in the story with the characters, and as the time passes, you can feel the tension growing between the pirates, as the situation with the massive Navy fleet escalates.

The entire second half of the film was timeless in my opinion, I was so wrapped into the story as the Navy orchestrated the seemingly impossible resolution to the stand-off, that many hours could have passed and it would have only seemed like minutes.

The sequencing of the third-act was incredible and should be used by any director who has at times questioned their own editing abilities. The story weaves seamlessly through the final act and is great film-making. Tom Hanks in some of the closing scenes delivered some of the best acting I have seen out of him, from a purely dramatic stand point. It was gut-wrenching to see, but so compelling I could not take my eyes off the screen.

Overall “Captain Phillips” was everything it thought it would be and more after viewing the trailer. Tom Hanks brought his best performance in years, and Hollywood newcomer Barkhad Abdi delivered a brilliant first-time performance. This film delivers excellence on many levels and is a must-see.

Time: 134 min

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (For sustained intense sequences of menace, some violence with bloody images, and for substance use)