Captain Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks – Big) takes the helm of the MV Maersk Alabama shipping vessel and navigates its cargo through troubled waters off the Somali coast. This route attracts pirates so when Captain Phillips sees that his ship is under real threat, he has to out-think the armed assailants before they forcefully board the ship, take control and hold the crew to ransom.
Director Paul Greengrass is no stranger to dramatic cinema, having been behind the first three Bourne films, Green Zone and countless other box-office hits. Tom Hanks is as A-list as they come and after a few slight years for the Oscar-winner, he returns with a bang in this fascinating true-life account of a man taken hostage by Somali pirates.
When you put Greengrass and Hanks together, quality is a certainty and Captain Phillips doesn’t disappoint. The action is breathtaking at times and leaves you at the edge of your seat. The threat level escalates throughout the film and gives the audience a very real and palpable sense of dread that steadily builds momentum. Throw in a frantic final act that utilises some of the best dramatic moments of the year and you have a film that impresses throughout.
There are a lot of positives in the movie but none shine brighter than Tom Hanks. He is sensational here, handing in a performance of integrity that’s fully deserving of his ‘Best Actor’ award nominations at countless award ceremonies. But as good as he is throughout, Hanks finds another gear in the final 15mins of the film that’s one of the finest lead performance you’ll ever witness. His handling of the aftermath of the hostage situation won’t leave a dry eye in the house and amazing simply doesn’t do it justice.
Whilst this is most certainly Hank’s movie, Captain Phillips still features a supporting ensemble of the highest calibre. Greengrass was adamant that real Somalians play the three central protagonists and all do an amazing job. In particular Barkhad Abdi bounces off Hank’s performance with gusto and guile. Michael Chernus and Corey Johnson impress as the Alamba’s main crew whilst Max Martini is convincing as the Naval Commander who has to make a tough decision towards the end.
The film took the honour of opening the 57th BFI London Film Festival and deserves its place amongst the very elite of 2013. With a court case pending however – one that questions the motives, character and behaviour of the real-life Captain Phillips – it casts an unfortunate shadow over this movie. Whether his actions are as truthful as they are depicted here or not, the creative license taken with the movie serves only to strengthen the story. It results in a wonderful picture that deserves to stand on its own, regardless of what happens with the legal case.
Captain Phillips is a real statement of intent from both Greengrass and Hanks and sits as one of the finest dramas of the year. Full of tension, threat and deeply emotional throughout, Captain Phillips is a masterclass of dramatic cinema and shows us just how true-life events can be translated effectively to the big screen. Whether the integrity of the real Captain Phillips is called into question or not, there is no denying that this is an amazing movie that is worthy of all its plaudits.