Captain Phillips (2013)

Captain Phillips (2013)You can tell the awards season is well and truly upon us with films such as Captain Phillips (2013) hitting out cinema screens. And the first time in over a decade that its more or less guaranteed that Tom Hanks will be on the nominations ballot papers, either for this powerful performance as Captain Richard Phillips or later this year in the Hollywood friendly Saving Mr.Banks as Walt Disney, It’s just too early to make-out which he’ll be up for.

Going back to the thriller directed by Paul Greengrass that was adapted from the real-life events on the cargo ship Maersk Alabama which was hijacked by Somali pirates in 2009 it was inevitable it would make it to the silver screen sooner or later. Since the release of the film it has been reported that the events have been portrayed in favour of Captain Richard Phillips, however coming from his own book “A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS, and Dangerous Days at Sea”, it’s hard to really tear away from the source material. Which would sideline the help from the crew. A crew that we see do their best to recapture their ship from the hands of pirates who fail to hijack the ship. It’s obvious who is getting the attention, a A list actor surrounded by actors who I’ve never seen on screen, who can hold their own, but only in a supporting role. They do fade into obscurity once the action leaves the ship.

Visually it took me a while to adjust to the rough hands on hand-held cinematography which really creates a sense of naturalism in the open waters of Africa where the action takes place. It seems out of place on land when we see Phillips saying goodbye to his wife, we are being prepared for a rocky ride ahead.

The build up to the events is as we all know inevitable, and we all know that he comes out alive. That’s not the point though, it’s the events in between which make this such a thrill ride of emotion and action. We know that Phillips is aware of piracy in the area, preparing the with drills as what feels like forever at almost documentary pace, we are on the bridge with Phillips as he paces the deck waiting to know everything s running smoothly. There’s no sense of urgency until something appears on the radar. This is on of the few films where the trailer gives away the film in just under 3 minutes of carefully chosen clips. Leaving us the real meat for the screening.

Things are now starting to heat up for the crew of the Maersk Alabama as they are being pursued by two boats, the know what’s going to happen and get themselves ready for a rocky ride. We wait tentatively for when and how things start to go wrong for Phillips and crew, who work together to remove the pirates from their vessel. Full of tricks by both the ships crew and captain as they deal with pirates lead by Muse (Barkhad Abdi) who wants to prove himself to the elders who sent him out to get a massive reward. A reward they wont give up on, in whatever form it takes. Hoping for millions they discover that there is far less, they carry on unwilling to give in easily to the crew.

All this happens on the ship, the real action takes place on a far smaller lifeboat, something audiences may no little about unless they followed the story in the news or read Phillips account. This is where the real drama takes place, within the confined space of an orange vessel, a captain outnumbers 4 to 1 as they travel back to Somalia, a reward in a new form. Something the U.S. Navy wont let happen, throwing open the action from the lifeboat to people we don’t really care about but are vital to the telling of the film, so we accept them as the heroes of the piece. However the hero, if you can call Phillips that is a man who survive a brutally short period in his life that could have brought his life to an abrupt end. Throughout it all he remains strong enough to talk to his captures, at first he tries to persuade them to give up and go home with the little money they had. Before he spoke more truthfully with them, talk of his survival, the odds of which he thought were slim.

Which brings us to a traumatic ending that with pent up emotion and action as the Navy Seals arrive on the scene to bring down the pirates and save the day. It’s the much needed release from all the tense action that seas an honest man brought to the edge. What was a once routine shipping job became his worst nightmare, something the auidience shares with. Hanks gives a strong performance of a confident man, living by his wits to survive, we see a human broken yet still holding on, if he hadn’t we would never see his story.


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