Captain Phillips is a multi-layered examination of the 2009 hijacking of the U.S. container ship Maersk Alabama by a crew of Somali pirates. It is - through director Paul Greengrass's distinctive lens - simultaneously a pulse-pounding thriller, and a complex portrait of the myriad effects of globalization. The film focuses on the relationship between the Alabama's commanding officer, Captain Richard Phillips (two time Academy Award®-winner Tom Hanks), and the Somali pirate captain, Muse (Barkhad Abdi), who takes him hostage. Phillips and Muse are set on an unstoppable collision course when Muse and his crew target Phillips' unarmed ship; in the ensuing standoff, 145 miles off the Somali coast, both men will find themselves at the mercy of forces beyond their control.
Hours after the World Premiere of Paul Greengrass' newest psychological
thriller "Captain Phillips," my heart is still palpating at a hundred
beats per minute. Starring the magnificent Tom Hanks in his finest
performance since "Cast Away," this edge-of-your-seat thrill ride lands
as one of the best films of the New York Film Festival and the year.
An intricate and precisely executed thriller written by Billy Ray,
everything about "Captain Phillips" works amazingly. It's this year's
"Zero Dark Thirty" in tension and features not one, but two fierce
performances from Tom Hanks and newcomer Barkhad Abdi. A loose
dramatization and not a fact to fact retelling of a dark day for an
American captain, the film takes us through the days Captain Richard
Phillips' cargo ship was hijacked by Somali pirates in 2009. The film
unravels itself with a narrative intensity bringing our hero from the
day of his departure to the end of his journey. Writer Billy Ray's
detailed and well-structured script provides Greengrass to do exactly
what he does best in his directorial efforts. There are definite
elements in "Captain Phillips" that remind me of the emotional and gut-
wrenching effect that "United 93" had on so many of us nearly seven
years ago. While you will have a near heart attack, you will be in
tears by the end credits.
I haven't been this impressed with the work of Tom Hanks in years.
Putting every ounce of his charm to good use but digging deep into a
character with such raw and emotional fervency. Hanks' dedication and
abilities utilized are the same tools used in his first Oscar-winning
performance in "Philadelphia" I assure you. It's a turn that could make
him this year's Daniel Day-Lewis. As his wife, the beautiful Catherine
Keener is regulated to one single scene, at the beginning of our film,
where Hanks dominates the conversation. Still a cherry on top if you
ask me but not something that many will notice nor remember..
Breakthrough performer Barkhad Abdi is simply sensational. With a
snarky demeanor as he calls Capt. Phillips "Irish" - Abdi plays Muse, a
Somali pirate that is layered with pride and disdain for the human
condition. Billy Ray gives him such a complexity, hinting at a
sensitive undertone but not masking the overtly violent rage that
embodies his soul; it's a creative formula that equals an interesting
dichotomy. Abdi administers these traits brilliantly.
As you expect any Paul Greengrass film to be, the technical executions
are top-notch including the intimate Cinematography by Barry Ackroyd
and the tight editing of Christopher Rouse, both sure-fire Oscar
nominees for awards season.
One of the amazing things about "Captain Phillips" is the final twenty
minutes or so. Pent-up emotion that has built for nearly two hours, our
hero's last moments with the audience are both triumphant and
incredibly vulnerable. This is when Tom Hanks shows his true power as
one of the finest actors to grace our screens. I admire the man. He
captures the real human condition, both in courage and in the face of
defeat. How would you react in what you thought could be your final
moments on Earth? Who would you think about? What about if you did make
it? Would you be so overcome with emotion that you couldn't focus on
the blanket of safety that surrounds you, or would you just crumble
into the fetus position, wanting to return to your place of origin?
"Captain Phillips" renewed my love of the movies. It's what breathes
life into my daily routine. It fascinates us and which is why, no
matter how terrible our lives are, or how the economy falls beneath our
feet, cinema still lives. Free as a bird. I'm in awe of all of this. I
feel privileged to share those moments. Not to be hyperbolic or put
focus on the Oscar race, which is what I do for a living, but "Captain
Phillips" showed me what Tom Hanks really means to cinema. Our lives
are habitual and ordinary at times, yet someone, every now and again,
has the ability to capture those little quirks of our own selves. I
think Hanks is this generation's treasure that will be remembered for
years to come. I'm in near tears as I write this now. Paul Greengrass
brought me personally into a situation that I will likely never be in
and examined my frail and defenseless spiritual nature. Connection.
That's what cinema is about. Few films do this. Many never will.
To get off the somber note, "Captain Phillips" is filled with high-
levels of tension. Bring your defibrillator and a bottle of Xanex to
make it through the picture as your heart will be beating outside of
your chest. In so many ways, it's the perfect film. Real life,
authentic characters, and a cast and crew that show up to deliver some
of their finest works. A dynamite lesson of the human psyche.