People love movies about real-life heroes. Whether it’s a president like Abraham Lincoln or just a regular person who overcame some huge obstacle, people tend to flock to movies of that nature. So I expect big business for Captain Phillips. This tells the story of the first American cargo ship to be hijacked in 200 years. And it happened just 4 years ago. Of course, it focuses on the captain of the ship who was taken hostage and tried to fight the hijackers off.
So who do you get to play the lead in a true story about courage and overcoming difficult odds? You get Hollywood’s most likeable everyman… Tom Hanks. It would be hard to imagine Brad Pitt or Tom Cruise as a local ship captain who’s just like everybody else. But Hanks has that regular guy look to match the acting needed to demonstrate the struggle that went on.
As the captain, he’s aware of the risk heading towards the Somali coastline when navigating his ship’s route for carrying cargo to Kenya. He follows all security measures due to his knowledge of the existence of Somali pirates. But none of this helps the inevitable from happening when a small boat of pirates actually do attack the ship. Somehow, 4 or 5 pirates manage to take over a ship with 20 crew members on it. This leads to Captain Phillips following the orders of the hijackers but at times also trying to outsmart them, all while they wave guns in his face.
The first part of the film is pretty intriguing as the ship tries to avoid the pirates and then is taken over by them. However, the final third of the film really meanders when the setting shifts to much smaller quarters as we follow just the captain alone with the few pirates. There are still some intense moments in the final climax, but it sure takes a while getting there. The film may be overshadowed by controversy if public knowledge grows about the real life crew members suing the shipping company and claiming that Captain Phillips is the one responsible for putting them in harm’s way in the first place. They claim he avoided warnings to steer clear of pirate-infested waters altogether (the case goes to trial in December). But regardless of who should be held accountable, the story is compelling enough to attract theatergoers. It just goes on a bit too long and could’ve been trimmed down a little to maintain a more consistent intensity. The film opens on October 11.