The film, ‘Captain Phillips’ starring Tom Hanks details the true life event of piracy committed against a United States freighter, the Maersk Alabama along the Somali coast. Based upon the book ‘A Captain's Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS, and Dangerous Days at Sea’ by Richard Phillips with Stephan Talty.
Hijacking cargo apparently has become routine in this part of the world. Other countries whose ships are captured often pay ransom. But, the United States of America does not pay ransoms to pirates or any entities that would embarrass them on a national level. In fact it had been 200 years since an American ship was captured by pirates. This miscalculation by the Somalis ultimately ends in their demise at the hands of Navy SEALS.
Tom Hanks as Captain Richard Phillips is pitted against Barkhad Abdi , the Somali Captain Muse in a test of wills creating a riveting tale. Hanks turns in an stellar performance leaving no one to doubt why he already has two Oscars® in hand. He realistically becomes the ship’s leader who is willing to sacrifice himself for his crew. His portrayal of the real-life Captain Phillips is inspiring. For example, in one scene after Captain Phillips is rescued, Hanks realistically portrays a survivor suffering from shock. His actions in this scene are amazing as he struggles to focus and get his bearings.
By using handheld cameras Director Paul Greengrass (‘Bourne Ultimatum’, ‘United 93’) achieves a documentary affect. The audience becomes a fly on the wall that is jostled and tossed around while witnessing the chaos as the story unfolds before their eyes.
He elected to use unknowns to play the crucial part of the pirates. In a true Hollywood story, Barkhad Abdi and his pals, Barkhad Abdirahman (Bilal), Faysal Ahmed (Najee), and Mahat M. Ali (Elmi) answered an open call in Minnesota for Somalis to try out for a Tom Hanks movie. Minneapolis is home to one of the largest Somali populations in United States. Out of 700 applicants, Abdi and friends were offered roles in the film. They were flown to Malta for six-weeks to get ready. In fact, Abdi had to learn to swim in order to play the part of a seafaring pirate.
They were sequestered from the main crew and did not encounter Tom Hanks or the other actors until they filmed the takeover of the Maersk Alabama. Their initial entrance into the ship is unbelievably terrifying and adds a level of realism to the scene.
As authenticity goes, Barkhad Abdi gives an impressive performance as the self appointed Captain Muse. This menacing and thrilling show of skill is one that will knock your socks off as you process the fact that he is not a trained actor (Oscar® buzz has already begun). His performance is mind blowing. For example, in one heart rendering scene, his face and demeanor exemplifies hopelessness as he realizes he is doomed. He describes how he has gone too far to go back. Despite his role as the villain, one feels the sorrow within his character.
Within the film, Greengrass reveals that these young men are pirates by circumstances. Living in a war torn country, they are at the whim of organized crime, orchestrated by War Lords who set quotas for them. Despite, the million dollar bounties placed on each ship, the actual pirates receive meager wages. For some, piracy staves off starvation.
In addition to the unknown cast of Somali pirates, the movie also uses real life Navy personnel. The infirmary crew of the USS Truxton were used as extras. HM-2 Danielle Albert (attending to Hanks) lines were not scripted, she adlibs as if it is a real-life situation (lending legitimacy to the whole proceedings). The result is one of the most earnest scenes in the film.
‘Captain Phillips’ is a heart pounding action-filled story that will keep you engrossed throughout the movie. It is an awe-inspiring testament to one man’s remarkable character.
Rated PG-13 – Parents Strongly Cautioned - Parents are urged to be cautious as the motion picture contains some material that parents might consider inappropriate for children under 13. Sustained intense sequences of menace, some violence with bloody images, and for substance abuse.