Unlike the other Somalian pirate film, A Hijacking, which was a slow-burn drama that focused on the psychological aspect of incident, Paul Greengrass’ film is a full on pulse pounding action thriller that is sort of a United 93 meets Zero Dark Thirty. Make no mistake — Greengrass gets better with every film and this is the most hair-raisingly fun thriller of the year, and despite its two-and-half-hour run time it whizzes by like a bullet.
Captain Phillips chronicles the infamous April 2009 incident where Richard Phillips heroically battled a bunch of Somali pirates who climbed aboard his ship and the Seal Team Six had to fly in to rescue him.
Tom Hanks, the likable bloke that he is, turns in a tremendous performance as the titular hero even though the film turns him into a good guy, which the real Phillips wasn’t. It’s easy to ignore one such niggle because everything else about the film is so ridiculously good.
With his trademark shaky camera swoops, gritty lighting and razor sharp editing, Greengrass piles on one thrilling set piece after another and leaves absolutely no room for breathing. The tension is pretty much unbearable throughout and the powerful acting elevates it to another level altogether. What’s more, the filmmakers even manage to establish the themes of globalisation and the effect it has on people like the Somalian pirates. It’s rare to see an action movie that works as a smart diatribe of the modern world without coming across as cheesy.
There is no Hollywoodisation of any kind, gunplay or chase scenes to be found here — and amazingly the film is even more fun than the director’s Bourne films. You need to watch it once again to understand how Greengrass managed to pull this trick. What’s even more fascinating is that the villains in the film are extremely well drawn — these are not the template goons that you find in mainstream Hollywood. Barkhad Abdi who plays the main pirate has surprisingly high character dynamics and motives to make us empathise with him. Whether you’re looking for a master class in direction, acting, drama, action or simply a whale of an entertaining time, Captain Phillips has you covered.
Watch it in IMAX for the best possible experience.