By Dan Metcalf, Jr.
Clipper Film Correspondent
Captain Phillips (Columbia)
Rated PG-13 for sustained intense sequences of menace, some violence with bloody images, and for substance use.
Starring Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi, Barkhad Abdirahman, Faysal Ahmed, Mahat M. Ali, Michael Chernus, Catherine Keener, David Warshofsky, Corey Johnson, Chris Mulkey, Yul Vazquez.
Written by Billy Ray, based on the book by Richard Phillips & Stephan Talty.
Directed by Paul Greengrass.
Piracy just ain't what it used to be. The image of pirates as swashbuckling rogues living large off their booty is gone, having been replaced by desperate Somalis with guns and speedboats. Such is the setting for Captain Phillips, the true story of a merchant sea captain taken hostage by a small group of Somalis in April of 2009.
Tom Hanks plays Phillips, a veteran captain of the Maersk Alabama, a huge freighter loaded with cargo on its way to Mombasa along the Somali coast. When a small group of pirates assaults the ship, Phillips works swiftly to protect the crew of 20 crewmen on board, but is taken hostage inside one of the ship's lifeboats and launched out to sea with them.
For several days, the captors try to take their hostage back to Somalia in order to negotiate a large ransom for Phillips, but they are thwarted by the U.S. Navy along with a few SEALs who join them. As the days and hours drag on, negotiations between the pirates and the Navy break down, leading to gun shots and a dramatic conclusion.
Captain Phillips is a true story, and a worthy attempt to dramatize a very real event. Although some liberties are taken with parts of the script and story, the movie stays pretty close to the actual ordeal of Phillips and his ship.
Hanks gives another great performance, even if it seems he resurrected the New England accent he used for Catch Me If You Can to portray Phillips. The tense editing and cinematography are also notable in Captain Phillips, under the capable direction of Paul Greengrass. It seems there was lot of effort in making sure Hanks was the only star in the movie, making him the center of attention (in the title role, of course). If you love Hanks, I suppose that's okay.
The only aspect of Captain Phillips that bothered me was the fact that the Maersk Alabama hijacking happened only 4 years ago, with most of the events (and bloody conclusion) still fresh in my memory. In other words, I know how the story ends, and I remember most of the particulars. That made some of the movie a little anti-climactic and boring, despite the cinematography and Hanks' performance.