Film Review: Captain Phillips (Columbia Pcitures; 2013)

BY MICHAEL MCALINDEN

 

Some people are saying this is Tom Hanks’ return to form. I’m not sure if he ever left it behind, but regardless, he is well and truly on form in Captain Phillips.

Despite certain objections from the actual crew of the ship regarding the facts as they are put down in the film, it is based on a true story. The long and short of it is as follows: Richard Phillips, played by Hanks, is captaining a boat through Somalian waters when pirates attack and board the ship. Not your funny, Disney approved Johnny Depp pirates, though the audience could have done with a laugh like that. These pirates are more believable, more psychotic, and overall more cinematic. The film deals with the pirates taking over the ship, their violent negotiations with the heroic Captain Phillips, and the subsequent kidnapping of Hanks’s character.

The director, Paul Greengrass, is in his element here, with his kinetic, loose camera work previously displayed so well in the Bourne films (especially the fight scenes) faring just as well on the choppy Somalian high seas. Hanks does superbly with what he’s given, as usual, but real credit should be given to Barkhad Abdi, playing the sinister leader of the pirates. It would have been too easy to just make him a typical snarling bad guy, but his brief backstory humanises him, adding a new element to his reasons for pirating, and ultimately makes him a better character. Not many actors can hold their own with Hanks, and Barkhar Abdi takes it a step further: he steals the scene more than once, and it makes for great cinema when the two interact, trying to outsmart each other and ultimately survive.

Overall, a thoroughly enjoyable film, well worth the watch, but go see it in the cinema – for God’s sake don’t pirate it.

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