‘Captain Phillips’ starts with a brief look at the lives in the background of the two main characters. Captain Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks) is preparing for a work trip in his comfortable home in the USA, Washington D.C. if I recall correctly. His wife drives him to the airport and they discuss parenting concerns and the changing world on the way. He is a container ship captain who is flying to Oman to sail a ship through the Gulf of Aden to Mombasa.
This pre-work routine contrasts with that of Abduwali Muse (Barkhad Abdi) who is awoken on the floor of his mud-hut in Somalia and is aggressively forced to take to the seas and bring back fortunes for the tribal warlords of the area.
Tom Hanks is brilliant playing the meticulous, nervous, resourceful captain and steals an incredibly powerful scene near the end. The director Paul Greengrass took the excellent decision of not letting the two main actors meet at all before the filming of the crucial hijacking attempt and it obviously worked as it produces a really tense feeling and a realistic sense of fear in the crew. Muses’s character is also great and fearless, exploring alone with the odds stacked against him.
As the film develops it is a real exercise in sustained tension. It shows everyone’s response to fear more than anything, the fear of being completely out of your comfort zone, completely isolated. Captain Phillips initially believes there is good in everyone somewhere, but has a moment of realisation when Muse answers one of his rhetorical questions with simply “Maybe in America Irish.”
The third act is utterly debilitating and the closing scene is incredibly moving.
4 on 5
Director: Paul Greengrass
Starring: Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi, Faysal Ahmed, Michael Chernus, David Warshofsky, Yul Vazquez UK Release: 16 Oct 2013