It’s said true-life tales are far more compelling than fictional ones. How people untangle out of perilous situations can amaze and inspire. The 2009 hijacking of a ship is an example. Making world-wide headlines, the incident forms the basis of director Paul Greengrass’ latest movie. Captain Phillips sees his style of cinematic realism used to great effect. As gripping as a factual piece should be, it becomes more enthralling than any imaginary story.
In 2009 the US container ship Alabama was hijacked by Somali pirates. In charge was Captain Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks). Forced to deal with Somali pirate captain Muse (Barkhad Abdi), his leadership skills were sorely tested. Taken hostage, Phillip had to negotiate a way to save the lives of his crew and himself. Building a dangerous but needful relationship with Muse, events which followed would force both to confront their fears.
Embodying the ingredients of captivating dramas, Captain Phillips delivers. Much of this goes to Hanks and director Paul Greengrass who expertly convey the claustrophobic tension. Whilst elements may have been changed to craft a watchable narrative, it is easy feeling the ordeal Phillips went through. How he attempted to appease the hijackers showed great courage and fortitude.
It’s this character strength that makes Hanks’ performance memorable. Although revealing the despair displayed at his predicament, Hanks injects the necessary conviction making his role believable. He is well served by a solid cast and strong direction maximising the drama. Occasionally over-long, Captain Phillips is never less than enthralling with the navy’s tactical manoeuvring in saving Phillips’ life equally absorbing.
Again proving real life tales have nothing on fictional ones, Captain Phillips inspires as well as excites. Using an interesting technique of looking at both sides of the stand-off, it’s a thought-provoking film making the most of its talents.
Reviewed by Patrick Moore
Rating out of 10: 8