Paul Greengrass brings the same inimitable documentary-like filmmaking that he used with "United 93" to a Somali pirate hijacking in the riveting and emotionally charged "Captain Phillips." The fact based story of the 2009 attack on the Maersk Alabama, a U.S. African supply ship, is a must-see new DVD release now available through the Roanoke Valley Public Libraries.
Tom Hanks gives his most memorable performance in years in the title role. Barkhad Abdi, a former chauffeur who told Conan O'Brien he took the short cut to acting, makes a startling Oscar nominated debut as the Somali pirate captain Muse. Billy Ray's brilliantly conceived screenplay compares and contrasts the two men, both captains dealing with new crews, as they set about their respective jobs. For Muse, that job begins with picking his men from a mob of beachcombing thugs who line up like dangerous over eager migrant workers. Two of the three vessels he sets out with quickly abandon him. But failure is not an option for Muse and the three desperate gunmen on his tiny boat who sail full-speed ahead into a hostage crisis nightmare.
The free flowing camera fluidly moves through, around and above the action in an effortlessly unobtrusive manner that immediately immerses the viewer into the situation. From the vast hopelessness of the lonely open sea to the tight sweaty confines of a tiny escape vessel, "Captain Phillips" creates a tense immediacy from first frame to last with a climactic gripping depiction of the U.S. navy's actions that will leave you breathless.
Abdi presents a new face and force to seriously be reckoned with. His astoundingly realistic portrait finds its menace not in inherent evil but from a desperate fear and hopeless belief of having no other recourse. Hanks' harrowing performance slowly strips a confident and commanding all business persona down to a man barely holding onto his last thread of sanity. His final moment on screen is a not to be missed career hallmark.