"Captain Phillips" is a story taken from actual events about cargo ship Captain Richard Phillips. The year is 2009, and Phillips is headed to sail the US-flagged MV Maersk Alabama cargo ship through the waters of Somalia to his destination in Mambasa. It's a dangerous job as during this period of time Somali pirates have been plaguing the waters near their homeland. Phillips is depending on his years of experience, his trained crew and perhaps a dash of luck to get through the dangerous waters unscathed. Phillips is a demanding leader that has his crew drilling for anything possible.
As soon as the ship leaves the comfort of the shipping lanes and heads to Mambasa alone, Somali pirates see the vessel and make it their target. "Captain Phillips" does an excellent job of telling an even portrayal of the pirates and their background story. They are not just thieves, but flesh-out human beings with their own reasons why they do what they do.
Just as the crew is about to complete a drill, Phillips eyes the pirates on radar. And the rest of the film is a harrowing drama that takes Phillips into a situation that he would he never would have expected.
Plain and simple "Captain Phillips" is role of a lifetime and Tom Hanks is perfectly suited for this amazing part. He plays a man that is confident and in complete control of his destiny, so he may think! The transition Hank's character goes from this confident countenance to scrambling for survival and ultimately he is left stripped of all humanity, as if a baby in a man's body.
The story itself is for the most part a smart thriller, but I thought it was just a bit too long. There are numerous scenes that take place in dark waters and I think just a little bit more cutting could have been done. The film is two hours and 14 minutes, and if I think it would be just a bit better at simply two hours. But this is by no means a big problem for the film, perhaps just my choice if I had it to make.
Director Paul Greengrass ("United 93") excels at the drama thriller and with Hanks as his muse, you the audience member will feel like you are living the experience right along with Hanks. This is a mark of a exemplary film and "Captain Phillips" is one of the best films of 2013.
Captain Phillips is rated PG-13 for sustained intense sequences of menace, some violence with bloody images, and for substance use and has a run-time of two hours and 14 minutes.
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-Kay Shackleton is a film historian with special focus on Silent Films, see her work at SilentHollywood.com