Captain Phillips

The Real Maersk Alabama footage

Captain Phillips

Director: Paul Greengrass

Writers: Billy Ray, Richard Phillips, Stephan Talty

Cast: Tom Hanks, Catherine Keener, Barkhad Abdi, Barkhad Abdirahman, Faysal Ahmed, Mahat M. Ali, Michael Chemus, David Warshofsky, Corey Johnson, Chris Mulkey, Yul Vazguez, Max Martini, Omar Berdouni, Mohamed Ali, Issak Farah Samatar

Synopsis: The true story of Captain Richard Phillips and the 2009 hijacking by Somali pirates of the US-flagged MV Maersk Alabama, the first American cargo ship to be hijacked in two hundred years.

MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for sustained intense sequences of menace, some violence with bloody images, and for substance use


Was Captain Phillips a hero?

Survival isn't always easy when faced with insurmountable odds

When people think of pirates these days, they often have that picture in their heads about the ones we've seen in other movies before. You know, the ones that might have a hook for a hand, a wooden peg leg, or even the classic one eye patch. Heck, if you were to ask most people to point to an example of what they'd think a pirate is, then you'd usually find that they'll point to the ones they've seen in such films like the "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise. for example.

However, what we sometimes forget is that piracy isn't something that was conjured up for movies, and that it still exists even to this day. Sure, they may not speak in that corny pirate language we've seen in movies before, and they won't have a hook for a hand, or even the classic peg leg. Hell, you probably won't even see them with a talking pet bird either, but the threat is still there. Everyday, various ships from the United States and other countries are subjected to pirate attacks. Some are lucky to avoid them, while others aren't so much.

"Captain Phillips" is a tragic story about one of the few ships that wasn't so lucky to avoid such an incident. Based on an incredible true story that happened in 2009, "Captain Phillips" manages to tell a story of survival like no other. Providing the audience with a multi-layered examination of the 2009 hijacking of the cargo ship, Maersk Alabama, by a group of Somali pirates.

Through Paul Greengrass' direction, the film shifts from being an intense action thriller, during some moments; while other times, we see the story shift into becoming a complex portrait of the myriad of globalization. The movie focuses on the Alabama's captain, Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks), and the Somali pirate captain, Muse (Barkhad Abdi). Richard Phillips is a seasoned captain that runs a very tight ship.

A family man, and a fellow who's highly resourceful. As for Muse, he's essentially nothing more than a pawn in the grand scheme of things. Sure, we can easily see that he's highly intelligent and resourceful as well, but you can almost get the sense that he's a man that's stuck between a rock and a hard place. He doesn't mean any real harm to Phillips, or his crew, but due to his circumstances back home, Muse has no other choice but to hijack the Alabama for financial gain.

Barkhad Abdi plays on this role very well. Not only coming off as intimidating and scary at times, but we also can see him as something of a sympathetic figure. As for Mr. two time Oscar winner, Tom Hanks, what can I honestly say about the man that hasn't already been said? Tom is easily considered one of the best actors of all time, and he certainly lives up to that reputation here. Delivering such an epic performance that it's almost a crying shame that he wasn't nominated for this part, at this year's Academy Awards.

As for the rest of the story, the cargo ship, Alabama, is hijacked as it makes it's trip around Africa. Sadly, due to a series of events, Captain Phillips is taken hostage by these pirates, as they try to hold him for ransom. What transpires from here is not for the faint of heart, but it's arguably one of the most emotional films that I've ever seen.

Although I doubt "Captain Phillips" will win "Best Picture" this year, it's definitely deserving of it's nomination. The story is interesting, and filled with emotional turmoil that'll touch the heart of any viewer that dares to see it.

The cinematography was brilliant as well. It seems to have a bit of a grey filter added to it, to create something of a grittier atmosphere to the story. The sound editing and mixing was well executed. As for the pacing of the movie, it wasn't half bad either.

Having said all that though, there are a few things worth pointing out before we wrap up this review. As I mentioned before in my "Argo" review, Hollywood always has a tendency to exaggerate certain aspects to any film based on a real life story, and "Captain Phillips" is certainly no exception to the rule.

Although he's portrayed as a hero in this movie for surviving his capture, as he tries to sacrifice his own life for his crew, the reality may not be as glamorous. According to various news articles, Captain Phillips wasn't a hero. He was a man that recklessly got his crew in unnecessary danger, due to his actions; while getting himself caught in the process. However, as Phillips said himself, the real heroes of this story are the brave Navy SEALS members that risked their lives to save him. Granted, Captain Phillips may have only been a hero in this film, but it still goes to show you who the real unsung heroes are in this world.

Overall, I would have to say "Captain Phillips" is a great movie, as I fail to see anything wrong with it. Although this film may not be for the faint of heart, it's definitely worth seeing if you're a movie fan. Definitely worth a look at a rating of four out of four.

© 2014 Steven Escareno

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