Captain Phillips

Tom Hanks
Captain Phillips

Directed by Paul Greengrass
Starring Tom Hanks and Barkhad Abdi
In UK Cinemas October 18th

by Joanna Orland

In the words of my dad, “I loved the film Captain Phillips, but Google ruins everything.  I looked up the real Captain Phillips and it turns out he’s a real asshole”.

Luckily for the audience, Tom Hanks plays Captain Phillips sternly, but very much in the usual likable Tom Hanks fashion.  It is another Oscar worthy performance from one of the world’s greatest actors.  Director Paul Greengrass, known best for making two of the Bourne films, has knocked it out of the park with this film as he perfectly balances drama with action, creating an experience filled with tension and empathy for all of the characters, even the villains.

The story follows the true events of an American ship’s hijacking by Somali Pirates.  The Maersk Alabama was captained by Captain Richard Phillips when it was boarded by four Somali hostiles.  Captain Phillips was kidnapped and kept in very claustrophobic conditions on a lifeboat with the pirates for days before being rescued by the Navy.  He later went on to write the book A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs, and Dangerous Days at Sea which this film is based on.

Greengrass filmed Captain Phillips in a very realistic fashion.  He brought the cast and crew out onto an actual lifeboat on the water to film most of the scenes, resulting in the cinematographer actually throwing up on Tom Hanks’ shoes due to sea sickness.  When casting the Somali pirates, he insisted on actual Somalis to play these roles and reached out to the American Somali communities to find the actors who play these pirates remarkably convincingly and with great empathy.

You would think that a film with such strong emotional content could be guilty of having sappy moments that play on the vulnerable audience, but this is not the case with the stylized and gripping Captain Phillips.  Greengrass never panders to the audience’s need for tear-jerking moments between Phillips and his wife, or a picture of the real Captain Phillips before the credits roll.  No, this is treated as a serious dramatic action film and it is one of the finest films coming out of Hollywood at the moment.

Here is Tom Hanks at the Captain Phillips press conference discussing when he met the real Captain Richard Phillips:

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