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Captain Philips

Captain Philips: Gripping True Story of Survival at Sea

  • Barkhad AbdiTom Hanks
  • Action & Adventure
  • Paul Greengrass
reviewed by
Marija Loncarevic
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Captain Philips: Gripping True Story of Survival at Sea

What do you get when you put together Paul Greengrass – director of the Bourne Trilogy, Bloody Sunday and United 93 ­– and the forever charming and ever so talented Tom Hanks? The answer is very simple; a stunning success.

Taking us back to 2009, Captain Philips retells the harrowing true story of Captain Richard Philips, whose cargo ship, the MV Maersk Alabama, was hijacked by four Somali pirates near the Somali coast.

Heading out for yet another one of his routine trips, Captain Philips (Hanks) kisses his wife (Keener) goodbye and hops on a plane to Oman, where a container ship carrying over 15,000 metric tons of cargo awaits. Through the troubled African waters, the trip from Oman to Kenya is not a task to be taken lightly; having received numerous warnings and threats of possible pirate attacks, carried out by an armed group of bandits who regularly operate the area, the ship is in danger before it even sets for sail. However, being a man of his word, the Captain doesn’t back down and prepares his crew with countless drills, should problems arise.  

Sure enough, the MV Maersk Alabama soon encounters trouble when a small speedboat, carrying commanding pirate Muse (Abdi) and his fellow associates, Elmi (Ali), Najee (Ahmed) and rookie Bilal (Abdirahman), approaches the ship. The Captain, along with his crew of twenty, offers some resistance, but not enough to keep the pirates at bay. 

Nerve-wracking, tense and wonderfully engaging, Captain Philips is almost without a fault. Hanks, an award-winning actor who has been around in the business for over three decades now, returns with yet another powerhouse performance. Offering Captain Philips much of its gravity, Hanks is dominant, vulnerable and incredibly soulful, making his depiction of the heroic Captain possibly some of the actor’s best work to date.  Alongside this, the first time actors involved execute their challenging roles of menacing pirates superbly. Abdi, who plays the leader of the crew, Muse, is spectacularly disarming and the chemistry between him and Hanks is where the heart of the story lies.

Drawing from non-fiction books, A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs and Dangerous Days at Sea, director Paul Greengrass also calls on the help of writer Billy Ray – of The Hunger Games and Flight Plan fame – to put together an engrossing, nail-biting retelling of a story of survival.

Surprisingly, considering that this is a true-story with a very well-known ending, Greengrass still manages to infuse an enormous amount of suspense, intensity and rawness to the picture.

Captivating, emotional and without reservations, Captain Philips offers one hell of a ride, and thanks to the wonderful and mind-blowing performance by the always-brilliant Tom Hanks, this could quite possibly be the winner of one of the best pictures of the year.

Like This? Try

A Hijacking (2012), Bourne Trilogy (2002-2007), United 93 (2006)

360 Tip

The first time Tom Hanks met the actors playing the Somali pirates was when they started filming the pirates taking over the bridge. Paul Greengrass mentioned he did this intentionally to build up tension between the actors.

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