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Captain Phillips Review

Tom HanksCaptain Phillips is an action drama directed by Paul Greengrass and written by Billy Ray. The film stars Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi, Faysal Ahmed, Mahat M. Ali, Barkhad Abdirahman, and Michael Chernus.

Inspired by the real event, Captain Phillips chronicles the story of the first American cargo ship to be hijacked in the last two hundred years. Led by Captain Richard Phillips (Hanks), through dangerous waters to Mombasa, the ship is taken over by four Somali pirates. The pirates consist of leader Muse (Abdi), second hand man Najee (Ahmed), enforcer Bilal (Abdirahman), and the young Elmi (Ali).

The crew goes into hiding, and Captain Phillips is forced to look for them accompanied by some of the pirates. Phillips ends up being taken hostage. The navy is forced into action to try and stop the pirates before they reach the shore of Somalia.

It should be common knowledge at this point that Hanks will give a powerhouse lead performance.  He is extremely relatable and vulnerable portraying Phillips. It is easy to get invested into his well being. Your connection with Hanks’ character leads to some intense, heart pounding moments.

A nice surprise is newcomer Barkhad Abdi, whose expressive eyes convey how willing he is to stay in control.  Empathy is given to the pirates because they are forced to do this by someone more powerful, making them seem less like the villains.  Because of that, you are not really rooting for them to lose. It provides an interesting balance between being eager that Captain Phillips makes it out of this situation alive, and also hoping that Muse does not fail at his forced task.

The film shows how easy it was to have your ship taken over, and we are left to wonder why the ship did not have enough protection to ward off two small skiffs. While there are many films that question actions of the government and branches of the military, Captian Phillips will remind everyone that there are instances where they can work effectively. The story provides you with plenty of moments when you want to throw your fist in the air.

At times, the film feels like a combination of director Paul Greengrass’ past films. It has the level of action and suspense comparable to The Bourne Supremacy and Ultimatum, and the emotional punch of real life events such as the fantastic portrayal of United 93.  His ever polarizing “shaky cam” style is present here, but it never gets in the way of the story. There are many instances where the film provides another layer of visceral tension.

Composer Henry Jackman’s score sounds very familiar, and does little to distant itself from the style of Jackman’s mentor Hanz Zimmer. There is one instance near the end of the film that sounds directly lifted from a very popular Zimmer score. Undoubtedly the score is still well composed, but it just feels like treaded ground.

Recommended if…

  •  You like director Paul Greengrass’ unique style
  • Want to see another showcase for Tom Hank’s acting
  • Like to be on the edge of your seat in suspense
  • Would like to see a film where the military’s actions are not in question

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