In Cinemas This Week – Captain Phillips: Review by Matthew P. Collins

Captain Phillips (***)
Certificate 12a
Running Time – 134 minutes
Directed by Paul Greengrass
Starring: Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi, Barkhad Addirahman,Catherine Keener, John Magaro

(Screened Movie House, Dublin Road 15.10.2013)

BASED on true events, Captain Philips is a pulse raising, heart pounding portrayal of a Somali pirate hijacking of the US flagged ‘Maersk Alabama’ freight ship and its crew in international waters off the horn of Africa in 2009.

Tom Hanks who seems to have been blockbuster dodging of late, takes lead role as a proud and protective eponymous captain, forced to deal with the first boarding by pirates of a US ship in 200 years.

Barkhad Abdi leads the group of Somali Pirates who make their way on to the unprotected freighter and leads the cast of unknown Somali actors who but for Hanks, threaten to steal not just the contents of the ships safe, but the whole show.

The often unbearably tense nature of  Captain Phillips draws inspiration from the real-life Richard Phillips’ autobiography. Brought alive by a man who ignited Bourne Ultimatum and Bloody Sunday, Paul Greengrass adds his seat grippingly, nail destroying, palpable tenseness to all but a few cathartic minutes of this film.

Whether you’re a ship nerd, someone who wants more tension in their life, an American patriot, or simply someone who misses seeing Tom Hanks at sea with a beard, this movie appeals to the fear factor within us all. Greengrass takes us into the vastness of the unknown ocean and leaves us to deal with our own worst fears, forcing us to ask ourselves what we would do faced with the same situation.

Captain Phillips is an extremely suspenseful, film which falls between the cracks of ‘Drama’ and ‘Thriller’ that rarely lets up over its 134 minute duration. Hanks plays a familiar old white guy in peril, handled with his trademark expertise. Barkhad Abdi plays ‘Muse’, the Somali pirate captain with a piercing gaze and a leader’s swagger.

While the relationship between Phillips and Muse develops into almost one of respect, Greengrass seems to have pandered to a more wider US audience and made the decision to dehumanize the supporting Somali’s to the point where they behave more like cartoon villains than the desperately complex individuals they appear to be at the beginning of the story.

Although this film may be more than a bit ‘America the Brave’ as well as at least twenty minutes too long in the last third, it’s still a thoroughly  entertaining ride and the last 15 minutes are probably the most engaging I have seen this autumn.

Captain Philips may promote an eye rolling nod to pro-American pride, not to mention the already factually questionable portrayal of Phillips by Hanks, but his individual performances may yet provide this movie some easily captured Oscar-bait by early 2014.

By Matthew P Collins

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