DIRECTOR: Paul Greengrass | SCRIPTWRITER: Billy Ray | CAST: Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi
Fresh out of the cinema, I am gushing and enthusing about CAPTAIN PHILLIPS to the point where people around me are starting to grimace. Fact is, TOM HANKS is remarkable. ‘But when isn’t he?!’ asks a pal. It’s a fair point. I mean, does this guy ever give a less than inspired performance? PAUL GREENGRASS is also on top form, and deserving of mass accolades for his directing – perhaps even Oscar glory.
But here are 5 solid reasons you MUST get out and see Captain Phillips this week or just as soon as you possibly can…
Speed Synopsis: This is a hijack thriller which recounts the true story of a 2009 Somali pirate attack on American container ship, Maersk Alabama.
The truth of a real story often gets diluted in film-making, as we know. (Look no further than The Butler.) But this movie has authenticity through its core. You get a real sense of what it felt like for Captain Phillips; the tension, the emotions at play, and the story (by and large) stays true to the facts. Forrest Wickman at Slate says: “Some of the movie’s most seemingly unbelievable details are pulled straight from A Captain’s Duty, Richard Phillips’ book-length account of the Alabama saga.” Check out more on the accuracy of the film at Slate.com.
The role of the lead pirate is played by a Somalian named BARKHAD ABDI. Abdi was working as a chauffeur when he was cast as pirate leader, Muse. He had never acted before nor had any intention to. At the age of 7, his family moved from Somalia to Yemen to escape the civil war and seven years later they moved to live in Minnesota. He is amazing in this film and could even earn himself an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor (which would be pretty cool).
Hanks delivers a performance that reminds us why he is one of the best actors of our time (probably in my top 5, but that’s a list even FilmsinFive has been shying away from). Finest moment? His final scene. As Peter Travers from The Rolling Stone says: “Hanks, who has been tremendous throughout, hits a new career peak… This is acting of the highest order in a movie that raises the bar on what a true-life action thriller can do.”
There’s well-considered subtlety at the root of this film’s brilliance. Is it a back-slapping US success story? In theory, yes. But the other side of the coin is brought to light too: the plight of Somalis, and the dire issues of globalisation and poverty which drive the hijack expedition. And everywhere you look, mindful balances are being struck with that trademark Greengrass class. There’s inevitable dramatisation – a must for any gripping action flick – but it comes via a well-structured screenplay, not through over-compensating audio, camera angles and special effects.
Did the final scene reach a powerful crescendo – and were tears spilled? My own, yes. But never is there a hint of overdone, Spielberg-style sentimentality. Sure, emotion builds for the finale but it’s a natural, growing intensity that comes with reaching the conclusion of an exhausting, stressful journey of bravery. Richard Phillips isn’t made out to be a hero, he’s just an ordinary man with extraordinary courage. And the thing that really gets you? It’s the respectful and unforeseen relationship that unfolds between the two skippers, delicately positioned in Billy Ray’s script, and skilfully executed by Greengrass.
PHILLIPS: There’s got to be something other than being a fisherman or kidnapping people.
MUSE: Maybe in America, Irish, maybe in America.
Do you think this film is one of 2013’s best pictures? What did you like most about it?