Captain Phillips (5 out of 5 Stars)
Directed by: Paul Greengrass (United 93, The Bourne Supremacy, The Bourne Ultimatum)
Written by:Billy Ray (The Hunger Games, State of Play)
Starring: Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi, and Catherine Keener
Is it possible that I have seen three of the best films 2013, and we are only at October 3rd? After Before Midnight, and Gravity, Captain Phillips proves to be another incredibly succesful film, which builds to incredibly tense, and emotional finale.
Captain Phillips is based on the real life event in 2009 where Somali pirates hijacked the MV-Maersk Alabama, the first US ship to be hijacked in over 200 years. Captain Richard Phillips (Hanks) is a man who does his job; he follows and gives orders based on the way he was raised, and time in which he was raised. Muse (Abdi) is in a similar situation, according to the film, but on a different level. Muse is controlled by warlords who force men to hijack ships in order to ransom the crew and cargo for money. This real life event delves head first into the hijacking, and attempted rescue of Captain Phillips.
The film has three stars, Paul Greengrass, Tom Hanks, and Barkhad Abdi. Let's start with Greengrass whose visionary direction guides this film. Greengrass knows how to build the intensity his work on the second Bourne film, The Bourne Supremacy changed the landscape for the modern day action film. Within the second and third Bourne films, the direction proved even more crucial guiding the film a well paced, action packed moments. Greengrass knows how to ramp up the intensity. While the Bourne films were mostly high octane, he honed his craft with United 93. In United 93 Greengrass created a slow burn, that long anticipation of the real life hijacking on September 11, 2001.
Put these two together, and you have Captain Phillips. Greengrass is an excellent director, and his work on this film is proof he crafts some of the most intensely wrought, and well directed films within the 2000s. Greengrass knows how to amp the action, but to create some fantastic performances from both stars like Hanks and Matt Damon, but also with people who have never acted before.
Hanks is the obvious standout; he is fantastic as he fights for his crew, stands up for himself and blends even mild comedic moments within this intense situation. Hanks has not been nominated for an Oscar in 13 years for Cast Away, the last few moments of this film are proof this man is a fantastic actor, and sells the heartbreak, and may even make you shed a tear or two namely because he leaves you just as breathless.
The person many will walk away talking about is Abdi, who plays Muse; he has no previous credits to his name, but this Somali actor is a scene stealer. While Muse attempts to gain respect from the other hijackers, there is a glimpse in his performance of pure conflict, should this be happening, do I believe in this, but he sells this performance strongly, look out for this man and his strong performance within this film.
Bill Ray who wrote the film creates a parallel with these two men, Captain Phillips and Muse, the script forces you to see the struggle of both of these men as connected. There are moments where this does feel forced, or that this connection is strained, but the editing by Christopher Rouse, and the direction from Greengrass which pull this film together, and make it the tight thrilling journey in a complicated time. Even if you are not a fan of the shakier camera you have to admire the way the films comes together and the style with which this film explains the modern day economic struggles in the present day.
While the script is not my favorite Ray does something more pointed than most scripts he turns this "action film" into a deeper more meaningful example of the of macro and micro economic effects on society. Muse and Phillips are both deemed in American eyes as working stiffs. The opening sequence points to Phillips as a working man trying to do right, make a living to provide for his family, and give them more than he had. Muse cites himself as "just a fisherman" but as Phillips says he is more than that, and he is bogged down by the turmoil of his countries poverty. You can even see the role societal military influence has, no spoilers here, but can four Somali pirates stand a chance battling the US Navy?
Captain Phillips is a great, and will remind audiences of the way in which taught thrillers can build to emotional and heartbreaking situations, based on the larger aspects of life.