Captain Phillips is based on the true story of Richard Phillips, who saved his crew from hijacking by Somali pirates back in 2009. It was only a matter of time until Hollywood would make a movie about this captivating story, and it’s Paul Greengrass who took the opportunity. It’s not a bad movie, but it’s not so great either. It balances between scenes of great stress and incredible acting to long moments of nothing.
Greengrass knows what he’s doing and conveys very well the danger of the situation. The beginning grabs you as Tom Hanks’ Captain Phillips tries to outthink the Somali pirates is thrilling and stressing, everything that you would expect from this kind of movie. But all those efforts to built an enthralling plot are put down as soon as the 3 Somalians step aboard.
Even if the dynamic between Hanks and Adbi, the revelation of the movie, is quite interesting, it fails to compensate for all the rest.
Richard Phillips has been described as a hero, but he isn’t represented as such: he’s probably just doing what everybody with a little sense would do in that kind of situation, he follows what he’s told to do. So you have an hour of him following instructions, trying to save his crew and ultimately being kidnaped. Seeing someone dealing with a deadly threat could be interesting, but the way it’s done, it doesn’t quite grasp the audience’s attention.
Captain Phillips is not a typical good vs bad kind of movie. The Somalians are following very extreme orders. As shown very early in the movie, they have a chief and they do what they are told to do.
It explains a little bit their actions, apart from the obvious lure of money. One of them is a youngster, who by the end just want to release the captain, because he realized that what he’s doing his wrong and that he could lose his life. They are not just shown as the bad guys who kidnap and scare people for the kicks of it, like in most blockbusters, and it’s fascinating.
Also, there is no real winner to some extent, the Somalians died and Richard Phillips went through something he will never forget.
However, I would have liked to know more about those characters, including the Captain. You can deduce their personality through the superb acting, for example, Barkhad Abdi, who’s playing the main hijacker Abduwali Muse, portrays a man who’s not very confident and who needs to prove himself capable of accomplishing such a task, which is probably the fuel for his actions against the crew of the MV Maersk Alabama, but it doesn’t go much further than that.
Luckily, Greengrass submitted an incredible end. The last 20 minutes or so are gripping, tense, and don’t leave you indifferent. Tom Hanks brings out the best of his acting.
Seeing the character in that state of distress, after being so calm the entire time is disconcerting. When they get him out, you can see all the pain and terror he just experienced, breaking the wall he had built to protect himself. It’s one of the best endings for a movie I’ve seen in a long time!
Overall, Captain Phillips is not an extraordinary movie, but it provides a great insight into the story that captivated the entire world. It probably won’t win much at the Oscars, but it definitely deserves its place in the nominees.