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Title :Captain Phillips (2013)
Release : 11 October 2013 (USA)
Runtime: 2h 14min
Genre :Biography, Drama, Thriller
Stars :Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi, Barkhad Abdirahman
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Captain Phillips (2013) trailer
Captain Phillips (2013) review
The most important image in the real-life-turned-reel-life thriller Captain Phillips comes very late in the picture (in fact, it is almost the last great scene in the movie): the image is of a man living through shock.
The man is Captain Richard Phillips, played with Oscar winning understated oomph by Tom Hanks, and although the movie is named after him on account of being adapted from the real Mr. Phillips’ book “A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS, and Dangerous Days at Sea”, it is as much about Mr. Phillips – and Mr. Hank’s impersonation of him – as it is about the pirates who commandeered his cargo ship in April 2009.
Yes, pirates, and not the Hollywood swashbuckling kind either. The small group of four that highjacks the Maersk Alabama (Phillip’s ship) are Somali – and they are just past their teens (one of them, we learn, is still a teenager); They hardly look the part of youngsters with their diminished physiques, razor sharp faces and big bullying eyes. Like some bullies, they come with an unsympathetic backstory – one that director Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Supremacy and Ultimatum, Green Zone, United 93), master of exacting, real-world thrillers (and shoulder mounted shaky-cam), unequivocally fleshes out without predisposition.
The initial few minutes that shift between Phillips and wife (Catherine Keener), and the Somali lot that is meant to take over the Maersk Alabama are, for lack of a better term, overformal. Phillips packs his bags, drives to the airport while he and the wife talk about a rapidly changing world – a favorite topic of the older generation that somehow matches Captain Phillips’ aesthetic ground. The Somalis, half a world away, share neither their sense of security or independence. They are a burdened desperate lot, living off on khat and controlled by a local factions leader. To them piracy is less about plundering and more as a way of navigating their existence (a fact Mr. Greengrass films with blunt emphasis).
Phillips soon arrives in Oman, with orders to take the Maersk Alabama, loaded with tons of cargo including rations from the United Nations World Food Program, from the Gulf of Aden to Mombasa. The ship has a crew of 20, and when the pirates spot and pursue the ship in their jerry-rigged skiffs, the crew is ill-prepared for emergency counter measures.
“We didn’t sign up for this”, argues one shipmate later, which is surprising given that the coast of Somalia is known for its pirate threat (just one year before the district loot was calculated to have been $80 million. The chase is, nevertheless, exhilarating, and in a sense weird, as a gigantic cargo ship out-races two smaller skiffs (the difference in size and perspective is at times too evident in Mr. Greengrass’s frames throughout the movie).
Despite being set in today’s overly tech-crazy world, the absence of high-speed gadgetry helps affirm the humanity of the situation, especially when Phillips and co. are taken over. The pirates are led by Musa (Barkhad Abdi is excellent and human in his debut), who had affirmed his Alpha-male status barely hours earlier.
By this time, and shortly thereafter, it is tough to choose sides. Mr. Hanks is humble in his screen-sharing and restrained in the role of a common man whose heroics involve courage (and wits) under fire, particularly because Mr. Abdi’s Musa is adamant about not releasing the ship unless millions are paid up (the ship’s locker has about thirty thousand dollars cash, barely enough to hold interest to Abdi’s overlords).
One can sense that the situation isn’t going to end well for Musa and co., and at times despite the severity of their action, ones wishes they just take the money and leave. Of course, because this even did play out in world news, we know they didn’t.
Mr. Greengrass, working from Billy Ray’s screenplay, punches up the kinetics while staying within the confines of the narrative; the arrangement is vivid, sharp and evenhanded without clichéd global distinctions (Captain Phillips isn’t a B-grade telly movie about single-minded hurrahing patriotism).