Captain Phillips is directed by Paul Greengrass and is based on a true story. It focuses on the 2009 Maersk Alabama hijacking. While I can’t say for sure that everything in the film is portrayed accurately (I doubt it is), I can say that the film is intense, well-directed, and features incredible performances from Tom Hanks and newcomer Barkhad Abdi.
The story focuses on Captain Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks), who takes command of a ship known as the Maersk Alabama. He must transport the cargo through the Gulf of Aden to Mombasa, Kenya. On the way, they are hijacked by four Somalian pirates with Muse (Barkhad Abdi) serving as their leader. Things don’t go as planned for the pirates and they end up taking Captain Phillips hostage on a lifeboat.
The two actors who steal the show are Tom Hanks and Barkhad Abdi. Hanks plays Captain Phillips with ease. He’s calm and collected during the initial invasion, but as the film goes on he starts to fear for his life. There is an incredibly powerful scene immediately after he’s saved that shows Phillips in shock. Hanks’ shows true emotion during this catharsis and that scene alone could get him an Oscar nomination. It feels like an incredibly real reaction – as if he himself had lived through the hostage situation. And then we have Barkhad Abdi in his film debut as the leader of the pirates. He is intimidating and braver than the other pirates – yet there seems to be more layers to his character. He never lets any of his fellow pirates kill people and has lines implying that this is his way of life and he has no choice. “We all have bosses” he tells Captain Phillips, suggesting that he has no choice but to proceed with his mission provided by warlord bosses.
Paul Greengrass has a way with film-making. I say that because this is a true story. You know what happens and yet he has the ability to keep you on the edge of your seat. The tension is palpable and there are nail-biting moments even though you know the outcome of this movie. The score adds to the intensity and even to the more powerful scenes (Hanks’ in shock). Needless to say, Greengrass created an intense and suspenseful film based on a true story and succeeded.