Written by Guillermo Troncoso.
In 2009 Captain Richard Phillips embarked on what he thought would be just another trip transporting cargo aboard the Maersk Alabama. Unbeknownst to him, Somali pirates were planning to take a ship for ransom. Four pirates made their way onto the Maersk Alabama, triggering a chain of events that would change Captain Phillips forever.
Paul Greengrass has proven his talents with two fantastic Bourne films, The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum, and two impressive real-life dramas, Bloody Sunday and United 93. Green Zone, while being a little like Bourne in Baghdad, was also a worthy thriller. Captain Phillips sees Greengrass deliver another true story to the big screen, proving that he is indeed the current king of cinematic re-enactments.
Tom Hanks gives one of his finest performances in a long time. His Captain Phillips is a professional, serious man that keeps his emotions in check while sternly ensuring his crew understands his expectations. As the situation escalates, his emotions begin to creep through. Leading towards a final release that is both heartbreaking and relieving. Hanks’ character isn’t explored too deeply, but we are nevertheless with him every step of the way.
In a fantastic casting choice, Tom Hanks is more than matched by Barkhad Abdi, who truly shines as the lead pirate. We’re given more access than expected to this character – to all four pirates for that matter. Abdi manages to evoke empathy from a character that could have easily succumbed to stereotypical villainy. His performance provides a complex level of emotion to the proceedings. He knows that the situation has easily ran away from him, yet he naively decides to re-assure himself – and Captain Phillips – every chance he gets.
This is no-nonsense filmmaking of the highest order. Paul Greengrass’ kinetic camera rises above the sometimes dizzying approach from some of his last films. The hand-held factor works beautifully here, ensuring the you-are-there level of realism is cranked to a ten at every second. As the events escalate, we are always kept aware of what is happening. While skipper jargon and navy terms are exclaimed every which way, care is placed on making sure we still know exactly what is going on. Billy Ray (Breach, State of Play, The Hunger Games) constructs a taut and clear screenplay that compliments Greengrass’ filmmaking style.
To call this tense is an understatement. Henry Jackman’s score pushes every sequence to an almost unbearable level of tension, Barry Ackroyd’s cinematography beautifully captures the sweat and intensity of every moment, and Christopher Rouse’s masterful editing brings it all home.
Exhausting and thrilling, Captain Phillips is all the more powerful with the knowledge that you’re witnessing a true story. Paul Greengrass and co. have crafted an experiential film that you won’t be forgetting in a hurry.
THE REEL SCORE: 9/10