Movie Review: Captain Phillips

Captain Phillips (2013)
134 minutes
Rated PG-13
Directed by Paul Greengrass
Starring: Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi


Grade: A

Fresh off the heels from last weekend’s big hit, Gravity, we get another survival tale in Captain Phillips, one of the year’s best movies. Instead of floating in space surrounded by life-threatening conditions, we have Captain Richard Phillips (Hanks) fending off pirates miles off the Somali coast. Based on the true events that happened in 2009, Captain Phillips is relentless and will have your heart pounding even after the credits finish.

Phillips is well aware of the dangers that he and his crew are traveling through. He’s a veteran at sea and you could sense it during the goodbye from his wife that she even knows how dangerous the job can be. During a drill to keep his crew prepared, he spots two small boats gaining speed towards their direction. They are Somali pirates equipped with machine guns looking to cash in. Unfortunately for Phillips and the crew on the cargo ship, they don’t have any weapons to defend themselves and also don’t have anything on board that the pirates desire.

Written by Billy Ray, the screenplay achieves something that gives Captain Phillips great weight while all the events are unfolding. Instead of only showing the side of the crew struggling for their lives, we see the livelihood of the Somalis and understand their desperation. When Phillips asks the leader, Muse (Abdi), why partake in the pirate acts and instead just be fisherman, Muse stares him down because Phillips just doesn’t understand. Big ships invade their waters and take all the fish. How else are they supposed to survive?

Paul Greengrass has created a very smart thriller for anyone who’s willing to enjoy it. You get a sense of claustrophobia from the hours that Phillips is hostage with the Somalis. You also understand the tension from the Navy SEALS as they attempt to extract Phillips before it’s too late. As it’s a true story, you most likely know the ending. If you don’t, then everything is exponentially more suspenseful.

Tom Hanks gives his best performance in over a decade here, but he couldn’t have done it without the performance from Barkhad Abdi, whose Muse is one you slightly sympathize for even though you’re rooting for Captain Phillips the entire time. The realism shown in the film never stops all the way to the final scenes that could very well land Hanks an Oscar nomination.

This is another story about a regular man doing heroic things in the face of extreme danger. Long after the movie concluded, I still couldn’t breathe normally from the emotional ride the movie took me on. There are plenty of cargo ships just like the MV Maersk Alabama just trying to make a delivery. It opens your eyes to see the kind of ruthlessness that still exists in the world today. You’ll no longer think of Jack Sparrow when you hear the word pirates after seeing this movie.


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