Tom Hanks continues to stun viewers by enveloping himself in diverse roles and pulling audiences with him as he becomes the character he has been picked to play.
It is one thing to assume a persona for a role, but Mr. Hanks moves beyond that technique crafting his art in such a way that the audience commits to his believability quotient and sees only the character he is portraying. This facility is not found in every performer, but Tom Hanks has mastered this process and runs with it.
He repeats this skill again in Captain Phillips, an action thriller starring Tom Hanks as merchant mariner Captain Richard Phillips of the container ship, Maersk Alabama who was taken hostage by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean in 2009.
The script was adapted from Phillip’s book – “A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS, and Dangerous Days at Sea.” by Billy Ray and directed by Paul Greenglass.
How do you go about collecting a cast of Somali’s to play pirates ? Easy thought Mr. Greenglass, who held a casting call in Cedar-Riverside, Minneapolis, a large American Somali community. From 700 participants he found four to play the pirate roles.
To document the SEALS action accurately, he visited the National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum and checked out the 5 ton fiberglass lifeboat the pirates used to hold Captain Phillips. He and his team also studied the sniper rifles used in that exercise.
The main filming for the project was done off the coast of Malta in the Mediterranean Sea followed by nine weeks spent aboard the Alexander Maersk, a container ship just like the Maersk Alabama.
The back story of the Somali pirates appears early in the film, depicting the out of work local fisherman who are eager to make money and satisfy the demands of their ransom paying boss. It is here the character of “Muse” is introduced, played by Barkhad Abdi – an unknown Minnesota actor. He utters the chilling comment, “Look at me! I’m the captain now,” after he and his fellow pirates board the ship establish the unsettling atmosphere the high jackers desire.
The rapid pace of the story never lets up and keeps viewers absorbed with the action on the screen as tension increases. It is a powerful story and even though the resolution has been widely touted, only with the final fade to black are theater patrons released to reality.
Unfortunately, questions from eleven former crew members have arisen, discounting the actions of the captain. They have sued the Waterman Steamship Corporation and the Maersk Line alleging the captain’s disregard for their safety. It infers that the Maersk Company had warned Phillips to stay 600 miles away from the Somali coast, something he did not heed. There are additional grievances. This is an interesting action after they had been paid a fine sum to keep their disagreements to themselves. Still, it’s a great story!