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article imageReview: Tom Hanks excels in ‘Captain Phillips’ Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Oct 12, 2013 in Entertainment
‘Captain Phillips’ is the true story of the 2009 hijacking of the US-flagged MV Maersk Alabama by Somali pirates. It was the first American cargo ship to be hijacked in two hundred years.
There are scripts written for exceptional actors. These roles tend to be inspired by real-life stories and are generally given to a handful of Hollywood's elite. Captain Phillips is one of those films, based on the 2009 hijacking of a cargo ship by Somali pirates, and Tom Hanks is its notable star.
It was normal for Captain Richard Phillips (Hanks) to pack a bag, hop on a flight and lead a large cargo vessel from one foreign port to another. As the risks of international waters changed, so did the crew's training. Everyone was well versed in anti-piracy tactics and they had drills to keep these skills sharp – but they also hoped they'd never have to test their abilities in real-life. When three small boats are seen approaching the ship on radar, the crew is put on alert. When the pirates board the ship, everyone follows their training and Phillips does what he can to control the situation. Finally the crew of the Maersk Alabama think their high seas nightmare has ended. But unwilling to leave empty handed, the pirates kidnap Phillips to hold him for ransom.
There's no shortcuts taken in this story. It is a comprehensive retelling of Phillips' tale from harrowing leader to shell-shocked victim. This detail stretches the runtime to two and a half hours, but excited pacing means most viewers don't even notice the length. Something is always happening – whether it's a routine check, hostile confrontation or rescue planning – the narrative never stops moving forward. The camera changes locations often as well. It gives audiences an omnipotent understanding of the situation by taking them from the ship to the pirate's shores to inside the responding military vessel.
The atmosphere is tense in every location. In Eyl, Somalia, the out-of-work fisherman compete for limited spots on the pirate crews then fight again for the better equipment and control of the bounty. Aboard the Maersk Alabama, the crew fear for their lives as the pirates wave around guns and bark orders. On the military vessel, the team works against a ticking clock to rescue Phillips before the kidnappers cross an invisible line. And on the small life craft, everyone is afraid they're going to die before ever reaching land again.
This is Hanks' movie and he'll undoubtedly receive several best actor nominations for his performance. The audience is immediately drawn to his character. Phillips is a regular guy dragged into a horrible situation, but he maintains his composure until the end. Hanks conveys a range of emotions, sometimes in a single scene. For example, he masks fear with confidence and calm when trying to negotiate with and manipulate the hijackers. The five-minute scene at the end of the film is no more than a stage for Hanks to showcase his acting talent as a distraught Phillips receives medical attention.
The Bourne Supremacy director Paul Greengrass instills this brave tale with all the intensity of his thrillers minus most of the violence.
Director: Paul Greengrass
Starring: Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi and Barkhad Abdirahman
More about captain phillips, Tom hanks, Paul Greengrass, 2009 hijacking, Somali pirates
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