Captain Phillips is a riveting film based on a true story about the chaos caused by four Somali pirates who hijacked a US 17’000 tonne container ship, the Maersk Alabama, off the Somali coast in 2009. This is a story of two men from contrasting continents, where one continent values life and the other values money over life. Desperation speaks volumes, and the rage against the western world is loud and clear in this film.
Captain Phillips spares us the Hollywood special effects and ridiculously unbelievable scenarios that some films capitalise on to entertain the audience. This film captivates the audience with exceptional acting by two-time Academy Award winner, Tom Hanks who plays Captain Phillips. You may be thinking, ‘how exciting can a film be about a slow-paced container ship?’ However, I can assure you this film is full speed ahead under the masterful direction of Paul Greengrass. You are kept on the edge of your seat from the moment the pirates invade the ship.
The Illusion of Western Capitalism
The film opens with contrasting scenes as Phillips gets ready to go to work. He and his wife drive to the airport amongst heavy traffic that depicts the busy, rapidly changing, world they live in. They discuss how difficult it has become to progress in the workforce where working your way up the ranks to becoming a captain, as Phillips did, was no longer the only avenue to promotion. They worry about how their children will fare, developing a career requires competing with thousands of candidates for a single position.
The following scene is a violent depiction of survival showing a band of armed Somalis tearing towards a makeshift village surrounded by a harsh desert landscape. The villagers scramble for cover; women snatch their children and hide inside their modest dwellings. Barkhad Abdi, who plays Muse, the pirate leader is woken from his sleep on the floor of his hut. He faces the armed men who are yelling commands, whilst pointing a gun to his head. They force him to pick a crew and get back to work to bring them money from their pirating enterprises.
Choices that affect lives
Captain Phillips is a film about choices and the multi-layers that manipulate and affect those choices. It shows us that we are never really in control but always at the mercy of someone else’s choices. Both Phillips and Muse are manipulated and personally affected by the decisions made by their bosses. Muse by brutal force and Phillips by passive manipulation to cut company costs. It’s also a film about the survival of the fittest and the desperation that forces people to do the most extreme acts. Why? As Muse puts it, ‘it’s just business.’ That appears to have become the world’s motto.
Masterful Acting by Tom Hanks
Tom Hanks did not disappoint with his masterful portrayal of the veteran sea captain. Fine performances were also delivered by novice Barkhad Abdi as Muse and the Somali actors whose aggression is intimidating, even from the comfort of the cinema seat. The startled look of the pirate driving the lift raft was precious. He looked as though he was sitting on a grenade in one scene.
Based on True Story
The film, although not 100% accurate, comes very close. Phillips was actually held hostage in the lifeboat for five days, which led to the series of events shown but not explained in the film. An excruciatingly tense rescue involving navy SEAL snipers was beautifully executed with a gripping soundtrack that escalated the tension.
Captain Phillips is so masterfully directed that the minutes fly by as the tension builds. There are moments where the tension eases with a dash of awry humour. Then the grand finale releases the stretched out tension with a flow of tears as Tom Hanks delivers an impressive performance that expresses what we were all feeling for him throughout the torture he experienced at the hands of these desperate pirates. There is no doubt this film will become a treasured classic as it appeared to appeal to a wide audience. A definite must-see.