Release date: October 11, 2013
Directed by: Paul Greengrass
Written by: Billy Ray
Starring: Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdirahman, Max Martini, and Barkhad Abdi
Official website: www.captainphillipsmovie.com
Director Paul Greengrass is no stranger to executing tightly wound action movies having directed matt Damon in "The Bourne Supremacy" and "The Bourne Ultimatum". He's also tackled real life events with "United 93" and "The Green Zone". His latest flick tackles the amazing true story of a ship captain who was captured by Somali pirates in 2009 and the incredible stand off that went down in the Indian Ocean.
Tom Hanks stars as the titular character, Captain Richard Phillips. Assigned take a cargo ship, the Maersk Alabama, to Kenya, Captain Phillips set out with his crew and 17,000 metric tons of cargo. This is a jackpot load for Somali pirates who track ships out on the Ocean, waiting for one of them to get out on its own. They follow the ship, board, and seize control with violent force.
But Captain Phillips does everything by the book and that means following protocol when dealing with piracy. Once the pirates board, Phillips orders is crew to shut down the ship, disable it, and get themselves into hiding. This is where Tom Hanks takes over, as he goes toe to toe with Muse (Barkhad Abdi), a barely 20-something Somalian kid who is eager to prove himself to his pirate boss. It's a story of survival, for all of these men.
The film is based on the book, "A Captain's Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS, and Dangerous Days at Sea" by Stephan Talty and Greengrass does an amazing job of creating unbearable tension throughout. He builds anticipation and suspense better than a lot of directors in the game these days. Even if you followed this story on CNN in 2009 and know everything that happened, you'll still find yourself on the edge of your seat
But what Greengrass does that is so rare, especially for a "based on a true story" movie, is he makes these characters, who are all based on real people, and he actually makes them feel like real people. Tom Hanks is, as per usual, amazing in the role. But they'd be nowhere without a great screenplay from Billy Ray ("State of Play", "The Hunger Games").
Part of the problem with keeping the focus strictly on Hanks' Cpt. Phillips is that characters that seem important early on, from family members to fellow shipmates, fall by the wayside during the electric final act. So when Hanks is having his emotional breakdown late in the film, it feels like he's going for his Oscar moment. It just never gets back to some of the other characters, which may leave some with an empty feeling.
But it's a powerful and emotionally charged performance by Hanks, easily his best in recent memory. And the film is terrific, the only downside being a second act that lasts a little too long with very little going on. But man, that awesome final act, which features thrilling standoff between the pirates and the Unites States Navy may seem crazy even for a Hollywood screenwriter -- but, for the most part, this is the way it happened.
"Captain Phillips" is an exhausting, and thrilling story of courage and bravery. Boasting a taut screenplay and manic direction, it elevates above the competition as one of the best movies of the year. It's also a welcome return to greatness for Mr. Tom Hanks.
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