Monday, October 21, 2013

Captain Phillips, a Movie Review

Given this film has been out for 3 weeks, I doubt this review is going to matter to many. That said, I offer my two cents any way. Tom Hanks offers a superb performance in the title role as Captain Phillips. The many close up shots of his face show the serious steely gaze of a man who never minces words. But, then he is from New England. 

The story is the true tale of the 2009 hijacking of the U.S. container ship Maersk Alabama by a crew of Somali pirates. The story unfolded on international television, so there is no spoiler here. The story is not what happened, or how it happened, or how it ended. The story is the part the public was not privy to - the storming of the ship, the tension between Phillips and the pirates, and the tension among the pirates themselves.

And, although Hanks brought an academy award winning performance to the screen, Barkhad Abdi, playing Muse, the lead Somalian pirate, deserves serious recognition for his role as the dedicated, fearless (but not reckless) pirate. In fact the band of pirates was a terrific role played by all. If the Alabama had not been boarded and the events that followed happened to another ship with similar consequences, this could have been a minor Clancy novel. (Jack Ryan being a Navy Seal coming to the rescue.)

The story was interesting, the filming excellent, the dialogue brisk - but not hard to follow, the casting well done, and the action - a pulse pounding thriller. Paul Greengrass' direction (also known for the Bourne franchise, the Green Zone, and United 93) made the 134 minutes go by quickly. 

The only problem I had was the nagging issue in my head of the negative press given the real Captain Phillips when the film was being promoted. He is currently embroiled in a lawsuit involving some of the crew who say he endangered their lives by not heeding warnings to stay further off the Somali  coast due to piracy threats. Apparently he had received an email to go as far as 600 miles off shore as a safety measure and, not only did he not share this information with the crew, he chose to stay closer to the coast to keep the route short and thereby save time and fuel. 

In a perfect world, I know Tom Hanks, as Captain, would never make such a reckless choice. And, in the movie, there was little evidence that Captain Phillips did either. However, just knowing that the real Captain possibly jeopardized his crew's safety, made me question the story. But, movies are a get away for us. And, perception is reality. If you saw Tom Hanks and how he protected his crew and his ship, you would never think that Captain Phillips would ever do differently. I just wish there had not been the negative press gnawing at me as I sat on the edge on my seat hoping the cavalry arrived in time.

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