Film & TV

Review: Captain Phillips

Tom Hanks

James Ayles reviews Captain Phillips

The long-anticipated big screen retelling of the 2009 hijacking of the Maersk Alabama does not disappoint, with veteran director Paul Greengrass offering up two hours of brilliantly played-out tension, as the action moves from the darkness of the ships engine room to the creeping claustrophobia that engulfs the latter part of this epic and intense film. With the Bourne Ultimatum director masterminding proceedings, Captain Phillips is a showcase of how to imbue a real story with genuine suspense and terror, each scene gradually building towards the central action with commendable skill.

A Recounting the story of Captain Richard Phillips and his crew on the Maersk Alabama, which became the first American vessel in over a century to be successfully hijacked by pirates off the coast of Somalia, this film is notable for the performances from its two leads; Tom Hanks produces a performance that ranks alongside anything from his commendable back catalogue, whilst newcomer Barkhad Abdi sparkles with menace as the villain of the piece. Alongside these commendable performances, where this film really excels is in the confrontations between the pirates and their victims, the life-or-death stand-offs portrayed with such breathless realism fear that you feel yourself being drawn into the heart of this real-life story of terror and piracy on the high seas. Greengrass uses his trademark close-up camerawork to full effect, drawing every ounce of emotion from each scene, and contrasting the cramped and dingy ship with the vast and unending ocean that serves as the canvas for this gripping and enthrallingly told tale.

Right from the opening shots of Captain Phillips at home as he prepares to embark on this fateful voyage, this film clearly aims to be more than the brainless action movie it could have easily become; the real-life elements, and the lingering thought that this is an all-too-common occurrence for vessels in this part of the world, offers a sense of perspective and reality that raises this film to a very high standard. Light on laughs and heavily dominated by a testosterone fuelled male cast- I counted no more than three women with a total screen time of less than ten minutes- this movie may not appeal to all cinema-goers, with its brutal and unflinching examination of the fraught nature of piracy and hostage situations, but the sheer quality with which Greengrass executes this film, without flashy Hollywood set pieces or baseless posturing, makes it a gripping and nerve-shredding watch. Despite the extensive running time and unrelenting intensity that underpins the whole film, this is a master class of real-life dramatisation from the director who does it best.

Quench Verdict: 4/5

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