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Based on true events, Paul Greengrass' Captain Phillips is the rarest
of thrillers, the kind that relies on neither distracting special
effects nor circumspect character development. Driven by a powerful,
soul-baring performance by the inimitable Tom Hanks, the movie never
lags, never oversells the plight of its characters, never reduces
anyone or anything to mere caricature.
Hanks is the titular captain of the United States container ship MV Maersk Alabama, cruising along the coast of Somalia with a full load and heading toward the horn of Africa. Two skiffloads of armed Somalis close in, ready to board the vessel. They're pirates, working for a warlord in their impoverished country, and they smell opportunity.
If this were a standard action flick, we might see the heroism of Phillips and his motley crew as they fight the evil pirates and save the world. It's not so here. There are nuances afoot; for once, we get the perspective of the lead pirate (Barkhad Abdi) without falling into the easy trap of feeling empathy toward him.
The pirates board the giant ship, clearly pleased with their find. Muse (Abdi) quickly proves himself to be a strong, humanistic leader; he's single minded (where's the crew? where's the goods?) but not sinister. His gang includes a strong man with a quick temper and Muse's own relative, who'd begged to come along on the mission - a mission that, when successful, would go a long way to improving their lives.
The movie is told in two distinct halves: the time spent by the pirates on the Maersk as they search in vain for treasure and crew, and the time spent in the ship's lifeboat as they make their way to Somalia. The villains are conflicted and desperate. And armed. But they're quickly immersed in an impossible situation.
This is one of the toughest, most naked performances of Hanks' stellar career. It's sometimes painful and heart wrenching to watch. He's an Everyman, per usual, but he's not also a savior or a hero. He doesn't suddenly develop super strength and overpower the bad guys. He's just a guy in charge of a boat and its passengers.
Matching him wit for wit while frantically trying to keep his own wits about him is Abdi as the skinny, intelligent Muse, seemingly a veteran of high piracy (though not against huge container ships). Abdi is a wonder to watch; unpredictable and cunning but a little greedy and rapidly running out of viable options. Truly a talent to look out for, Abdi nails this role.
The ending is predictable only in the most general sense. Bill Ray's screenplay does not duck some plausible consequences to the actions of each main player and leaves us with a scene that is as emotionally overpowering as anything in Hanks' previous Philadelphia.
It seems that every time Tom Hanks makes a good movie, people begin to label it as "Oscar bait," as if the movie were created just as a vehicle to earn an award. Captain Phillips delivers a tight, action-packed story fraught with none of the usual missteps of the genre, and if it is indeed rewarded with the highest of honors, it will be well deserved.
What a stunning film - the imminent threat of deadly violence tempered
with the tragic circumstances that drive people to such desperate
actions made for a very human story.
If Hanks is nominated for an Oscar for this, then Barkhad Abdi deserves a nomination too, because their scenes together were electric - never once did Abdi appear the junior party, every bit Hank's equal as two cunning foes trying to outfox one another.
The best lines in the film were perhaps when Phillips beseeched of Muse: "Surely there's something other than fishing and kidnapping people you could do?"
To which Muse replied, sombrely: "In America, maybe".
It's a must see, the best film I've seen this year.
Hours after the World Premiere of Paul Greengrass' newest psychological
thriller "Captain Phillips," my heart is still palpating at a hundred
beats per minute. Starring the magnificent Tom Hanks in his finest
performance since "Cast Away," this edge-of-your-seat thrill ride lands
as one of the best films of the New York Film Festival and the year.
An intricate and precisely executed thriller written by Billy Ray, everything about "Captain Phillips" works amazingly. It's this year's "Zero Dark Thirty" in tension and features not one, but two fierce performances from Tom Hanks and newcomer Barkhad Abdi. A loose dramatization and not a fact to fact retelling of a dark day for an American captain, the film takes us through the days Captain Richard Phillips' cargo ship was hijacked by Somali pirates in 2009. The film unravels itself with a narrative intensity bringing our hero from the day of his departure to the end of his journey. Writer Billy Ray's detailed and well-structured script provides Greengrass to do exactly what he does best in his directorial efforts. There are definite elements in "Captain Phillips" that remind me of the emotional and gut- wrenching effect that "United 93" had on so many of us nearly seven years ago. While you will have a near heart attack, you will be in tears by the end credits.
I haven't been this impressed with the work of Tom Hanks in years. Putting every ounce of his charm to good use but digging deep into a character with such raw and emotional fervency. Hanks' dedication and abilities utilized are the same tools used in his first Oscar-winning performance in "Philadelphia" I assure you. It's a turn that could make him this year's Daniel Day-Lewis. As his wife, the beautiful Catherine Keener is regulated to one single scene, at the beginning of our film, where Hanks dominates the conversation. Still a cherry on top if you ask me but not something that many will notice nor remember..
Breakthrough performer Barkhad Abdi is simply sensational. With a snarky demeanor as he calls Capt. Phillips "Irish" - Abdi plays Muse, a Somali pirate that is layered with pride and disdain for the human condition. Billy Ray gives him such a complexity, hinting at a sensitive undertone but not masking the overtly violent rage that embodies his soul; it's a creative formula that equals an interesting dichotomy. Abdi administers these traits brilliantly.
As you expect any Paul Greengrass film to be, the technical executions are top-notch including the intimate Cinematography by Barry Ackroyd and the tight editing of Christopher Rouse, both sure-fire Oscar nominees for awards season.
One of the amazing things about "Captain Phillips" is the final twenty minutes or so. Pent-up emotion that has built for nearly two hours, our hero's last moments with the audience are both triumphant and incredibly vulnerable. This is when Tom Hanks shows his true power as one of the finest actors to grace our screens. I admire the man. He captures the real human condition, both in courage and in the face of defeat. How would you react in what you thought could be your final moments on Earth? Who would you think about? What about if you did make it? Would you be so overcome with emotion that you couldn't focus on the blanket of safety that surrounds you, or would you just crumble into the fetus position, wanting to return to your place of origin? "Captain Phillips" renewed my love of the movies. It's what breathes life into my daily routine. It fascinates us and which is why, no matter how terrible our lives are, or how the economy falls beneath our feet, cinema still lives. Free as a bird. I'm in awe of all of this. I feel privileged to share those moments. Not to be hyperbolic or put focus on the Oscar race, which is what I do for a living, but "Captain Phillips" showed me what Tom Hanks really means to cinema. Our lives are habitual and ordinary at times, yet someone, every now and again, has the ability to capture those little quirks of our own selves. I think Hanks is this generation's treasure that will be remembered for years to come. I'm in near tears as I write this now. Paul Greengrass brought me personally into a situation that I will likely never be in and examined my frail and defenseless spiritual nature. Connection. That's what cinema is about. Few films do this. Many never will.
To get off the somber note, "Captain Phillips" is filled with high- levels of tension. Bring your defibrillator and a bottle of Xanex to make it through the picture as your heart will be beating outside of your chest. In so many ways, it's the perfect film. Real life, authentic characters, and a cast and crew that show up to deliver some of their finest works. A dynamite lesson of the human psyche.
"Captain Phillips" opens in theaters October 11.
It's fair to say that the movies which have been walking away with Box Office numbers this year have been either big superhero movies or big sci-fi movies. If you're wondering whether or not you should go and see this film because it looks like something a little different DO IT! This is a film, regardless if you already know the story, which delivers excellent acting, excellent moments of tension and excellent use of emotion which ,when you leave the theatre, won't be difficult to feel at all. Now if you're still considering whether or not you should go and see this film, let's address the rumours you might have already heard: 1.There's been a lot of talk about Tom Hanks potentially claiming another Oscar - yes he simply HAS to be up for contention after this. True in the first half of the film he doesn't necessarily have to be all out emotional, but he does enough so that when we reach the second half and ultimately the final act, we are in as much shock and awe as the character of Richard Phillips through watching his performance. 2. A few people have said "too much Tom Hanks." There's two sides to this: Obviously he's going to be in the story a lot because he is the star BUT he doesn't give the only good performance here; the Somali pirates are truly terrifying, not just because of what they are but because their characters have a lot of uncertainty making them very unpredictable. 3. Some people are saying it's overrated and we've seen it all before. I'm not claiming its the greatest movie ever made, but what I am saying is its definitely worth a look. So if you're worried about wasting some cash don't be, it's definitely a film you won't regret paying for.
Paul Greengrass has proved 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.
Captain Phillips is a biopic based on 2009's Maersk Alabama hijacking
incident, which was an intriguing story and ordeal of the people
involved. This film adaptation mostly plays as a straightforward
thriller with only brief backstories. In spite of whatever comment
regards to the accuracy this film is getting, it didn't hurt how much
of an exhilarating piece of cinema this is. Merits obviously goes to
director Paul Greengrass and star Tom Hanks. It's quite predictable
what you'll get if you put those talents together, but the result is
somehow surprising like you've never see it coming.
There's nothing much interesting happening at the first act when the film was exploring the personal life of Richard Phillips, but that seems to be the point: the dreariness of the intro immediately presumes that he really is just an ordinary guy. Though, there isn't actually enough detail about his personal life in those scenes aside of his job and his family, same with the Somali pirate leader, Muse. Everything becomes more alive when the actual plot starts going. Lives turn upside down, tension rises every minute passes, and the humanity of both Phillips and Muse are becoming more and more visible. It's a down to earth matter of life and death where both sides aren't too perfect enough to succeed or survive, and their actions could end up causing even worse situations.
Even before the release, everybody has already been betting that Tom Hanks will get a nod for this(probably because of the accent or he's just Tom Hanks). Other than mimicking the real Phillips' accent, Hanks really gives his character a palpable sense of fear and pressure. But there is one scene in his performance that will definitely give the viewers a total impact, which it might've made the camera linger. That whole scene could be a trick for some to love this movie even more, but even without it, Hanks is still spellbinding as Captain Phillips. Another amazing performance is first time actor, Barkhad Abdi. Abdi manages to be threatening, sympathetic, and strangely charismatic at the same time as Muse, thus it makes the character more effective.
Now for Greengrass, his aesthetics are all there. Shaky camera bringing momentum in every action scene, action scenes filled with nerve wracking suspense, and sidelines taking place in control rooms. But this is his challenging side, such as United 93, when there aren't any much explosions nor fighting set pieces practically involved. The title might give one an assumption that the film is about a captain who fights off pirates. But it turns out, they're just hopeless victims who do not have a single gun to defend themselves from their armed enemies. The kind of thrill here is anxiety. You will always get the sense that there is something wrong going to happen in every step these pirates take, leading the hostages really need to depend on the government and the Navy SEALs. What's smart about this is it's all mind games. They're troubled by complicated decisions, yet have awareness of naivety. At the second half, the excitement is now relied by figuring out which of them is going to be fooled by whose tricks. By the end of the film, you will then realize how limitlessly enticing it was while realistic at the same time.
Captain Phillips is almost just a very great thriller, then it eventually becomes more powerful. Despite of calling his achievement heroism, it was more like a test of courage. The movie is wise to make sure Phillips is no glossy superhero, but a regular human being who gets to face a situation that may lead anyone to trauma, just to sacrifice the risks of his crew. Simply, that may tend to inspire which is why it's so focused to his point of view. Otherwise, the filmmaking did an astonishing job, although you already know what these people can bring. But surprisingly, it still defies our expectations. It's amazing how Tom Hanks' talent can still surprise many, and how Paul Greengrass' obvious style feels unique and fresh (in this movie, at least). Rating the film can be somewhat difficult. It's so engrossing and excellent, it's hard to notice any terrible flaws about it. Later on, it doesn't matter. Captain Phillips is a satisfying ride that ultimately does its best.
"Captain Phillips" is the Hollywood retelling of the true-to-life 2009
harrowing story of an American container vessel Maersk Alabama (with
Captain Richard Phillips at the helm) being held hostage by Somali
pirates. The screenplay by Billy Ray was based on the novel "A
Captain's Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs, and Dangerous Days at Sea"
written by Captain Richard Phillips himself.
Playing the titular character, Tom Hanks is what this film is all about. He starts off simply, playing Capt. Phillips as a family man and seasoned seaman on a routine delivery. However when the pirates came, you see him transform into a cool-under-pressure leader and shrewd tactician, matching wits with these desperate aggressors. In the last five minutes, Hanks would give us an unexpected display of emotion which may well deliver him another Oscar for Best Actor.
The four Somali-American first-time actors playing the pirates are a very realistic bunch. They play with wild-eyed and feral intensity, really scary. Barkhad Abdi plays their skinny foolhardy leader Muse, engaging Phillips in a deadly chess game, toe-to-toe. Faysal Ahmed plays the hot-headed Najee, who was the loose cannon of the group. Barkhad Abdirahman plays the young recruit Bilal, getting himself a baptism of fire on his first time out.
When I saw the name director Paul Greengrass in the credits, I understood why the sense of tension and urgency were so well-conveyed. This was that familiar sense of excitement we felt in his previous films, like the last two Jason Bourne films or that suspenseful 9/11 drama "United 93". He really knows how to make military operations exciting on screen, as he did for the Army in "Green Zone" and the Navy SEALS in this film.
I have to admit I was on the verge of getting seasick with the shakiness of the camera, but luckily I held on despite the two-hour length of the film set at sea.
Overall, this is a different sort of adventure drama, with a topic not too commonly tackled in a mainstream film. We hear of these events on the news, but this film brings us right in the middle of one. We will feel the tension building as the pirates were approaching. We will feel the fear when the pirates were on board. We will feel the desperation and the frustration of being trapped in the middle of the open ocean with no help immediately forthcoming. If you are up for such a realistic experience, then this film is for you.
"It was supposed to be easy. I take over ship, get paid, no one gets hurt." In 2009 a Somali named Muse (Abdi) is in trouble and needs to get money for his boss fast or face the consequences. His plan is to hijack a cargo ship and hold it ransom until he gets his money. When he boards a ship captained by Rich Phillips (Hanks) he thinks he found his answer to his problems, but things only get worse for all involved. This is a true story. It's always more fun to watch a movie that is also a true story and even better when you see one that you remember the events when it was happening. As far as the movie goes it starts off pretty slow but grows more and more tense as it goes on. As great an actor as Tom Hanks is I found myself thinking that this is really a part that many people could pull off. Then I watched the last 20 minutes and realized why they got Hanks. Much like the movie Apollo 13, when you watch a movie that you know how it ends but still end up shedding a tear it is because of great filmmmaking. This falls into that category. A movie that builds momentum the entire time. Starts off slow but by the end you are hoping for more. I liked it. Overall, tense and makes you think about both sides of the event and if the pirates were really evil or not. I give it a B+.
That went a lot higher than my expectations. I was thinking an okay
movie, but that was more than just okay. Truly impressive powerful
The movie's strength points could be summed up:
1. Greengrass's thrillers are really fine, I like his The Bourne Ultimatum with his shaky camera tricks. And here he is doing it again maybe with different techniques. As a thriller, Greengrass managed to make this movie get on your nerves and put so much tension, and that's a success.
2. The Somali crew.. Now, that's some serious impressive sh*t. Some Somali dudes you have never seen their faces in a movie before come and make such spectacular performances, that's something you should admire. It made the movie so believable that you'd sometimes forget it's just a movie. Barkhad Abdi has made a huge step in his career with this movie and that was crowned by his nomination for the best actor in a supporting role. He probably won't get it, but he deserved it.
3. Tom Hanks is just a really fine actor. He was driving the whole thing with his convincing performance. I still can't believe he got my tearing in that scene, or let's just say crying. Greengrass has taken him to squeeze some fine acting skills.
4. Fair screenplay that didn't make you forget that justice should be done, no matter how the conditions the person lives in, but it also pushed the eyes to take a look into the world that would produce such people as pirates.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Of the crooked timber, no straight thing can ever be made." - Immanuel
Paul Greengrass directed "United 93" in 2006. The film was marketed as an "apolitical" and "objective" account of the September 11th attacks, but was devoid of all historical context, and so functioned more as a Pentagon propaganda piece. Here was a film about a handful of state assisted Saudi Arabians attacking at least 3 high profile US buildings which totally ignored the United States' relationship with Saudi Arabia, totally ignored how these attacks were used as a pretext to launch two illegal wars, totally ignored US ties to Al Qaeda, the group purportedly behind the attacks (on the very day of 9/11, the US were collaborating with Al Qaeda within the Macedonia civil war), and totally ignored both the motivations behind the attacks and what certain Saudi's stood to gain from another Western crusade. To this date, the 9/11 Commission, the White House, FBI, CIA and British government have failed to provide proof (not garnered from water-boarding) that Al Qaeda carried out 9/11 or that Al Qaeda chieftain Osama Bin Laden masterminded the attacks, let alone that these groups or individuals constitute the governments of Iraq and Afghanistan, the two countries upon whom wars of retaliation were subsequently waged. Osama Bin Laden was killed in 2011 (again no evidence was presented to the public). In 2001, before the US invasion of Afghanistan, the Bush administration turned down offers by Afghanistan's Taliban groups to turn Bin Laden peacefully over to US authorities.
Like "United 93", "Captain Phillips" revolves around a vessel being hijacked. Here the Maersk Alabama, a Danish/American container ship, is boarded by four armed Somali pirates. The pirates battle with the Alabama's crew, before escaping with the ship's captain (Tom Hanks) aboard a lifeboat. The United States Navy then arrives. They surround this lifeboat with a small fleet and proceed to assassinate three pirates. The fourth survives, and is subsequently jailed in America. Captain Phillips survives.
Whilst Greengrass obviously sympathises with both his Somalis and the crew of the Alabama, you simply can't frame a film as a thriller, or depend heavily on the US Navy loaning you a flotilla of aircraft carriers and destroyers, and not expect it to be anything other than compromised. This is ultimately a film in which the Somalis are manic bad guys (high on drugs, no less), in which the Alabama's crew are good guys "delivering aid to Africa" (most of their cargo wasn't relief aid), in which all context is ignored and in which the US Navy does "murderous but wholly necessary things". The film is matter-of-fact to a fault. This is all there is to reality, it says. Accept it.
But as everyone knows, to the point of being smugly annoying, that is not "all there is". The Somali pirates are largely a result of Western companies dumping nuclear and toxic waste off Somalia's coast, coupled to severe illegal over-fishing by foreign super trawlers (300 million dollars worth of seafood stolen from Somalia each year). The United Nations would itself release numerous reports blaming toxic waste for mutations, deaths, diseases and illnesses within Somalia. Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the UN envoy for Somalia, would say: "There is uranium, lead, cadmium, mercury, industrial, radioactive, hospital and chemical waste killing Somalis and completely destroying the ocean." Why can companies do this? Because Somalia's government has all but collapsed, thanks to Western Empires deliberately destabilizing and developmentally arresting the nation, funding warlords, dictators (Siad Barre et al) and instigating proxy wars with border nations. This has been going on, uninterrupted, since the late 1950s; any local government body not beholden to Western corporate interests, and which attempts to nationalise resources, will be destroyed.
In the early 2000s, Somalia began to fight back. To oppose US-backed warlords, right-wing religious factions began to unite, some under the name The Union of Islamic Courts. The UIC united almost all of Somalia and provided stability, but was nevertheless swiftly demonized by the West their unwitting creators - as "Islamist terrorists". Because the CIA solves everything with bullets and blood, the US and UK then pushed its Ethiopian puppets into invading Somalia. Tens of thousands died and the UIC was pushed back. Tired of all this crap, and forged in a cocktail of anarchy, the militant group Al Shabaab was formed, partially to fight off Western and Ethiopian gangs. Today, they are US public enemy number 1.
Whilst Greengrass undoubtedly intends his film to be a work of social critique, possibly like some of his earlier pictures ("The Green Zone"), "Captain's" narrow scope hampers things. You can not tackle such a loaded event in such a constrictive manner and expect it not to set up, intentionally or otherwise, many false assumptions. One senses Greengrass attempting something approaching satire the idea of a film in which a zillion dollar US fleet is absurdly pitted against four lowly pirates who literally struggle to "climb to the top of a (socioeconomic?) ladder" is genius but satire is completely beyond him. Juxtaposed scenes in which Hanks and our pirates talk about "fighting for promotions" feel, for example, reductive rather than enlightening.
Beyond politics, the film is tense, well shot, but also repetitive and overlong. The casting of Hanks brings dubious (and possibly ironic) connotations, Hanks the poster boy for a post-John Wayne Americana ("Apollo 13", "Private Ryan", "Band of Brothers"), genteel but packing heat. Philosopher Jacques Ellul once predicted that future propaganda would increasingly portray itself as being "apolitical", "naturalistic" and cloak itself in "realism". Greengrass' military-men are emblematic of this shift: grim, stoic and fixated on "just doing their jobs", everything forever outside their purview and moral radar. Greengrass' camera adopts the same stance.
6/10 Wastes a good premise.
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