Director Paul Greengrass is back and at his very best with his latest film Captain Phillips. Like in Green Zone his focuses on the emotional turmoil his main characters go through, creating a very personal insight into an action driven story. Based on the book A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS, and Dangerous Days at Sea, written by Captain Richard Philips himself, Greengrass’ s film is exciting to watch, a little claustrophobic but always spellbinding.
When Captain Richard ‘Rich’ Phillips (Tom Hanks) packs his bag to leave his Vermont home to catch a flight to the Middle East, there already is a sense of foreboding. Once he boards his ship, the massive container ship Maersk Alabama, and leaves Oman bound for Mombasa the unsettling feeling only increases.
It is obvious to all that Captain Phillips wants to get the trip over with as quickly as possible and as soon as they enter the notoriously dangerous waters off the coast of Somalia all his fears are confirmed when two small fishing-boats take up pursuit of the Alabama.
It seems impossible that four armed pirates on a tiny metal boat could ever board and hijack such a massive giant as the Alabama but the do, forcing most off the crew into hiding. As the pirates prowl the ship, Captain Phillips, as the pirates hostage-guide, trying to find the crew-members an intense game of cat-and-mouse ensues.
Of course things go horribly wrong and Captain Phillips finds himself trapped inside a tiny lifeboat in the middle of the ocean with his brutal kidnappers growing more and more unpredictable and restless by the minute.
Captain Phillips lives from both Greengrass’s ever-present camera and Tom Hank’s brilliant performance. This is Hank’s strongest performance in years and reminds the viewer of his skill. In Captain Phillips Hank plays to his strengths, the everyman who gets caught up in a situation beyond his control. But it is his raw emotions and obvious vulnerability that pulls you in, and his sheer physical reactions in the final scene of the film is reason enough for an Oscar nomination.
And while it is obvious that Hanks is the star of the film the four Somali pirates aren’t just flat characters but each has a story of their own to tell. All four of them are fishermen, living on the poverty line, for them piracy is a business not a political act.
Captain Phillips keeps all the promises the previews and media fanfare make and is worth every penny for a ticket. And with a lot of rainy days ahead of us a perfect film to watch.