Captain Phillips: one edge-of-your-seat thrill ride

Captain-PhillipsCAPTAIN PHILLIPS. The best way to describe it? One edge-of-your-seat thrill ride.

The movie begins with a brief introduction to the character of Phillips, played superbly by Tom Hanks, but as soon as the boat hits the water a sense of foreboding falls over the film and remains until the pivotal point of the story. I had managed to avoid reading or hearing about the real life story that this film is based on prior to going to see it and this really is the best way to watch it, if you can. The movie has you gripping your seat and clenching your knuckles from start to finish.

Paul Greengrass is a great fit to direct Captain Phillips. The British director has serious action film pedigree, having previously directed two instalments in the Jason Bourne franchise and his background in documentary work means he is well equipped to bring the realism needed to produce this film. When portraying real life events which that happened so recently, it would be all too easy to get the balance wrong but Greengrass walks the line between rip-roaring action and factual accuracy supremely well.

Hanks is, of course, fantastic in the title role and will be heavily tipped when the Oscars role around next year. The sense of fear and tension that he creates in the final sequence is a joy to behold, however, the real surprise is the emergence of Barkhad Abdi, the American actor of Somali descent who portrays the captain of the pirates, Muse. Captain Phillips represents Abdi’s screen debut and so it might have been expected that he would struggle to match the iconic screen presence that is Tom Hanks, but the performance he produces is wonderful. He balances the menace of an aggressive pirate captain with helplessness as things begin to get out of hand to absolute perfection.

The one criticism that can be made of the film is that it fails to properly address the political reasons for piracy in the Horn of Africa region. It clearly makes an attempt to be balanced. There is talk of the lack of opportunity for Somalis, which drives them to piracy, along with a few lines that address the justifications that the pirates give for their actions. However, the movie does end up casting them firmly as the bad guys, where perhaps there could have been an opportunity to better explore the ways in which the effects of extreme poverty had driven them to this situation.

Despite this, Captain Phillips remains one of the most exciting films I’ve seen all year. It will have you on the edge of your seat for the entire thing and you will be exhausted by the end. Abdi and Hanks are more than capable in the two leading roles and both will be in and around the Oscar nominations. Definitely not one to be missed.