930353 - Captain Phillips

Run time: 134mins
Release date: 18 October
Distributor: Sony Pictures
Director: Paul Greengrass
Cast: Tom Hanks, Catherine Keener
Synopsis: The film focuses on the relationship between the hi-jacked cargo ship Alabama’s commanding officer, Captain Richard Phillips, and his Somali pirate counterpart, Muse. Set on a collision course off the coast of Somalia, both men find themselves paying the human cost for economic forces outside of their control.

This intricate and precisely executed edge-of-your-seat thriller, based on the real life hi-jacking of a US cargo ship by Somali pirates in 2009, works also as a complex portrait of the myriad effects of globalization and colonialism.

As you would expect from any Paul Greengrass film (Bloody Sunday, United 93) there is an almost documentary feel throughout; all the technical contributions are superb, including the intimate cinematography of Barry Ackroyd and the tight editing of Christopher Rouse, which build on Bill Ray’s well-structured script and a superb ensemble cast led by Tom Hanks and sensational newcomer, Barkhad Abdi.

Captain Phillips is a multi-layered examination of the 2009 hijacking of the US container ship Maersk Alabama by a crew of Somali pirates. The film focuses on the relationship between the Alabama’s commanding officer, Captain Richard Phillips (two time Academy Award-winner Tom Hanks), and the Somali pirate captain, Muse (Barkhad Abdi), who takes him hostage. Phillips and Muse are set on an unstoppable collision course when Muse and his crew target Phillips’ unarmed ship; in the ensuing standoff, 145 miles off the Somali coast, both men will find themselves at the mercy of forces beyond their control.

Based on the book A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs, and Dangerous Days at Sea by Richard Phillips with Stephan Talty, this is a highly emotionally charged, tense and claustrophobic story of Somali pirates and their American sea captain hostage, which simultaneously exposes the underlying economic divide that sets the events in motion.

The story begins in Vermont, where Captain Phillips (Hanks) says goodbye to his wife, Andrea (Catherine Keener) to sail his cargo ship (partially containing food aid) halfway around the world. At the same time in Somalia, a former coastal fisherman, Muse, (Barkhad Abdi) aims to overtake one of the high-value ships that passes by his coast every day. At the heart of the confrontation between Phillips and the desperate Somali pirates, Greengrass places the rift between those who are part of the lucrative ebb and flow of international trade, and those who are caught outside of it.

The depletion of fish in Somali waters due to industrial over fishing is one factor that has spurred the growth of the pirate economy off Somalia’s coast, where fishermen had formerly relied on a healthy domestic fish trade. Somalia as a nation has been decimated by civil war since the collapse of its military dictatorship in 1991, and when piracy was shown to be a profitable activity, it attracted the attention of the country’s warlords who have turned it into big business and organised transnational crime

In the resulting film, the claustrophobia and the other constraints of working on the ship are all achieved without the use of CG effects. The climax when the US Navy orchestrates Phillips’ rescue is breath-taking. Hanks excels as the veteran merchant mariner, a seemingly ordinary man facing an extreme crisis, who demonstrates quiet but extraordinary bravery. He is backed by a strong ensemble cast and astounding performance from Barkhad Abdi.

930353 - Captain Phillips


Photographs courtesy of Sony Pictures