Bourne supremo Paul Greengrass returns to the big screen with his latest directorial effort in the shape of nautical thriller Captain Phillips. Based on real-life events, the film follows Captain Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks) and his crew as they are hijacked by Somali pirates whilst delivering aid to Africa.
The film, set nearly entirely all at sea, depicts one mans selfless role in protecting his crew against a small group of pirates desperate for financial reward. Phillips, portrayed superbly by Hanks, is shown to be the ultimate professional. Hard on his crew, but willing to put his life on the line for them: “If you’re going to shoot anyone, shoot me. I’m the Captain!” It is his strength of character that sees him able to withstand such an arduous ordeal.
With much of the press talk surrounding Hanks’ Oscar-worthy performance, it is possible that some of the films other positive points have been overlooked. Greengrass does not just show the strengths of the captain, and therefore in doing so his crew, but he also raises valid concerns over the safety of ships making such journeys. 2009 was an extremely active year for such incidents and Phillips’ bemusement over instructions (or lack of) on how to defend his ship against the on-coming pirate threat indicates a lack of preparation to such events that needed to be corrected (and have been thereafter).
The portrayal of the pirates themselves is an interesting one. Greengrass does not just portray them as criminals, but tries to humanise them in a way not often seen in film. The leader of the pirates, Muse (Barkhad Abdi), speaks of how they were forced into hijacking boats because the fishing industry was suffering in Somalia. Phillips’ shock at the age of one of the pirates [“What are you, 16, 17!?!”] suggests there might be more to their actions than simply greed.
Engaging, powerful and dramatic: Captain Phillips is an intense piece of film making that will not disappoint. Hanks’ performance will keep you hooked right until the very end, where the killer blow in the emotional final scene will leave you running to the bookie’s to place your Oscar bets on a third Hanks win come next year. One of the better films you will see in 2013.