Published Thursday, 17 October 2013
Based on actual events that unfolded off the coast of Africa in 2009, Tom Hanks stars as the hostage hero, Captain Philips. At the movie's helm is Bourne Supremacy director Paul Greengrass, who brings Somali pirates and commercial shipping, colliding together in a pulsating maritime thriller.
Captain Philips is a tale of two skippers, firstly Tom Hanks with wispy white goatee as the eponymous lead, the all-American master and commander; and secondly newcomer Barkhad Abdi as Somali captain Muse, a former fisherman turned desperate buccaneer.
The film ebbs and flows between the two men as each chart their course which will end in their dramatic collision. Captain Philips begins his journey from his white-picketed home in Virginia heading for the airport with his wife. "Everything's different" he tells her, with almost a premonition of what is to come "Big wheels are turning, you have to be strong to survive it".
Philips is soon turning his own big wheel on the bough of his charge, the mighty U.S. container ship Maersk Alabama sailing out of Oman into some of the most dangerous waters in the world. Meanwhile, on the Somali Coast, renegade captain Muse is gathering his motley crew and deadly weapons. These are pirates of poverty enslaved by a local warlord to hijack an unarmed merchant ship.
Director Greengrass attacks the action with his signature gusto and soon Muse and his shipmates are spectacularly attempting to board Captain Philips's vessel. These are thrilling scenes with a miniature skiff circling the giant ship, looking like a fly trying to swat an elephant.
Eventually Muse does seize the ship "Captain relax" he tells the captured Philips in his distinctive Somali drawl "Nobody gets hurt, it's just business". But this is only the beginning of this compelling adventure, as both captains engage in a deadly game of cat and mouse.
Double Oscar winner Hanks is perfectly cast as Captain Philips, a noble role you could imagine being played by Cary Grant or Gary Cooper in a previous era. But Barkhad Abdi is a revelation as his charismatic nemesis, Muse. All the more astonishing given the fact that before this film, Somali-born Abdi had no acting experience and was working as a taxi driver in Minnesota.
But all the plaudits must go to the director who can uniquely take real events like Bloody Sunday, United 93 and Captain Philips and transform them into compelling dramas. Greengrass is a master of tension, keeping you on the edge of your seat from one bracing sequence to another.
And most importantly he portrays the culture clash from both sides, showing us that the best way to see our modern world is through a complex lens. Captain Philips is not only a heroic adventure but also a dark parable on the effects of globalisation.
Captain Philips (Cert 12a) is now on general release.
© UTV News