In review: Captain Phillips


Perhaps best known for his work done with Matt Damon throughout the Jason Bourne trilogy, director Paul Greengrass has now joined forces with Tom Hanks to present audiences with Captain Phillips, a depiction of the real life events that happened in 2009 when Captain Richard Phillips’ United States cargo ship, the Maersk Alabama, was hijacked by four Somali pirates.

The events that occurred throughout the hijacking spanned across three days, and ultimately culminated with a meticulously designed Navy SEAL operation to come to Captain Phillips’ aid. As a whole, the film isn’t gripping purely because it’s a real-life action thriller, but more so because of Greengrass’ attention to realism.

Throughout the duration of his cinematic career, Greengrass has garnered a reputation for his truthful portrayals of intense drama and conflict, especially in United 93 and Bloody Sunday, which recall the traumatic days in American and British history on September 11, 2001 and January 30, 1972. This trend of authentic filmmaking by Greengrass continues with his newest feature through a tense and realistic rendition of Richard Phillips and his crew’s battle against the Somali pirates.

In order to convey this sense of realism, Greengrass developed the narrative by establishing Phillips’ family life in America, as well as the turbulent lifestyle of the Somali pirates, who are forced to chase after money through the illegal and violent practice of piracy due to the impoverished conditions that they live in at home. Furthermore, by offering a depiction of Phillips’ personal life at home contrasted against the culture of the Somali pirates, he draws the viewer in to learn more about both parties who come from completely different worlds, but are inevitably destined to clash.

Opposite Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips is Barkhad Abdi, who plays Muse, the leader of the four Somali pirates who are seemingly locked in a do-or-die scenario once the hijacking is in place. Prior to the production of the film, Abdi was a twenty-eight year old cab driver working in Minnesota with no acting experience. However, following the movie’s opening weekend and a few high-profile international screenings, Abdi is receiving wide praise for his remarkable turn as Phillips’ antagonist, and is a possible dark horse Oscar contender for Best Supporting Actor.

Abdi, who came to the United States from Somalia at the age of 14, discovered that auditions were being held for the film through a local television casting call.

The film runs for an intense two hours, during which viewers are left to question how much worse it can possibly get for Captain Richard Phillips as he sacrifices his own safety in favour of his crew’s. Phillips faces obstacle after obstacle against impossible odds of survival at the hands of his captors, and his determination to not submit to their demands while he awaits rescue is a testament to the admirable true story of an American mariner who would not give up.

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