Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Film Review: "Captain Phillips" (2013).

The poster’s tagline reads "Out here, survival is everything." This describes perfectly what Captain Phillips is all about. This action thriller is directed by Paul Greengrass. The film is a multi-layered examination of the true story of merchant mariner Captain Richard Phillips and the 2009 hijacking of the U.S.-flagged container ship Maersk Alabama in the Indian Ocean led by Abduwali Muse and his crew of Somali pirates. The first American cargo ship to be hijacked in two hundred years. The screenplay by Billy Ray is based upon the book, A Captain's Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs, and Dangerous Days at Sea (2010), by Richard Phillips with Stephan Talty.

On April 8th, 2009, the cargo ship Maersk Alabama, bound for Mombasa, Kenya, with 17,000 metric tons of freight on board, was attacked by a small group of Somali pirates using a Taiwanese fishing vessel, the Win Far 161, that they hijacked just two days earlier. Crewed by merchant marines, who despite their name were unarmed, and captained by a lifelong sailor named Richard Phillips, the Maersk Alabama attempted evasive manoeuvres, but not to avail. It was soon boarded by four corsairs, who seized the ship and Captain Phillips, and took him hostage. The rest of the crew shut down the ship's power, thwarting the invaders' plans to sail away with it, and managed to take one of the pirates hostage themselves. A tense stand-off followed; an exchange of prisoners went wrong, and the pirates escaped the ship into a lifeboat. They took Phillips with them, and a game of cat and mouse ensued. Only, instead of a cat, the US Navy deployed two warships. Eventually, on April 12th, after an ordeal lasting four days, Captain Phillips was rescued, and the Somalis were shot dead and its captain taken into custody for trial.

It is - through director Paul Greengrass's distinctive lens - simultaneously a pulse-pounding thriller, and a complex portrait of the myriad effects of globalization. The film focuses on the relationship between the Alabama's commanding officer, Captain Richard Phillips, and the Somali pirate captain, Muse. In the film, Phillips and Muse are set on an unstoppable collision course when Muse and his crew target Phillips' unarmed ship; in the ensuing standoff, 145 miles off the Somali coast, both men will find themselves at the mercy of forces beyond their control. The film stars Tom Hanks and Barkhad Abdi. Hanks gave the finest performance of his career as the title character, and Abdi gave an intense, chilling and brilliant debut performance as the Somali pirate captain, Abduwali Muse.

Potent and sobering, Captain Phillips is even more gut-wrenching because the outcome is already known. While difficult to watch, director Paul Greengrass' film has been made with skill and treats the subject matter with respect, never resorting to the aggrandizement of which Hollywood has sometimes been accused. Especially effective because of Hanks, who portrays the real-life captain of the doomed cargo ship who volunteers on behalf of his crew to be taken hostage with bravery to extraordinary circumstances. To conclude, it’s one of the most moving films of the year.

Simon says Captain Phillips receives:

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