Movie Review: Captain Phillips

Jean-Paul’s Rating: 4/5 Stars

Bottom Line: An intriguing story of a real life event.  More Somali pirate background should have been included.  Some editing would have been nice.  Damn, Tom Hanks is a good actor.

“Captain Phillips” tells the true story of a massive container ship hijacked by Somali pirates and the ordeals that the ship’s crew and the eponymous Captain Phillips endure.  The movie starts with two opening sequences that establish the main characters.

We see Captain Phillips getting ready for his trip to take command of the Maresk Alabama and driving to the airport with his wife.  He’s just an everyman going to his job discussing issues of the family with his wife.  It’s a beautiful scene and the interactions with his wife make you believe the two have beem married for years.  Captain Phillips’ life is familiar to us so it doesn’t take much time to establish his character and it certainly helps that you have as talented an actor as Tom Hanks doing so.

We also see Muse, a Somali pirate gathering a group of men to go looking for ships to hijack.  You get the feeling that almost none of them want to be doing this.  But threats of violence from the local warlord and a bit of drugs and a bit of competition and they are raring to go.  I wish they had spent more time establishing Muse’s background.  What does he do when he’s not hijacking ships?  What is his family situation?  Barkhad Abdi does a really good job of establishing Muse’s humanity throughout the movie, but his life in Somalia is so foreign to us he and his fellow pirates might as well be aliens.

The events leading up to the eventual hijacking of the Maersk Alabama are fairly taut as are the events that take place on the ship as well.  When the pirates escape the ship taking Captain Phillips hostage, things kind of slow down.  A good ten or fifteen minutes could probably have been cut from this portion of the film without any loss of cohesion.

The ending scene is absolutely riveting.  Tom Hanks will just blow you away when you watch this part of the film.  After everything that has happened, Captain Phillips is understandably in shock.  Tom Hanks captures this so heart-achingly beautifully.  I don’t think this is an Oscar caliber movie, but if they could give an Oscar for a single scene performance, Tom Hanks would win it hands down.

As with all movies that claim to portray real events, there is a bit of a controversy if things happened as they did in the film.  A lot of people blame Captain Phillips for putting the ship in the position to be kidnapped in the first place.  This is somewhat portrayed in the movie, but kind of glossed over.  It just goes to show, history is not only written by the victors but by the heroes on the winning side.