Tom Hanks and Paul Greengrass team up to tell the white-knuckle, true story of Captain Richard Phillips, a man whose freighter was boarded by Somali pirates in an attempt to seize a ransom for the crew and its goods.
Hanks – who plays the eponymous Captain Phillips – is astounding. In the past he has proven that he’s a fascinating screen presence so the fact he’s the main focus of the film is absolutely no issue as he makes every moment he’s on-screen one to savour. This is not to say that the film suffers when he’s not on screen, Greengrass ensures that the tension is extremely high and all the performances, including the actors playing the pirates (who were all first time performers), were phenomenal.
The film’s opening is shows events before the cargo ship being boarded and shows some back-story to both Captain Phillips and the pirates. This is key to explaining why some people become pirates and gives us a degree of sympathy for the events that come later on.
Throughout the opening third of the film, there is always a sense of foreshadowing and impending disaster – all this despite the fact that there’s no sense of speed in the water. This makes the chase sequence difficult however Greengrass’s trademark shakey-cam technique and the pulsating score still ramp the tension to give a white knuckle ride.
The time comes where the audience nearly gets a moment of respite. The piracy looks to be over and everything is working out. This is swiftly followed by even further tension. Greengrass using the running time to emphasise the ordeal and whilst the film is relatively long, at no point does it drag.
Captain Phillips is a fantastic example on bringing films ‘based on a true story’ to cinema. As one who doesn’t know the ins-and-outs of the story, there are parts that seem dramatised however this doesn’t distract from the tension of the film.
Telling a story of a relatively recent news story – particularly one that was well-known in the United States – was a brave move for everybody involved. They can all feel vindicated in this. Captain Phillips is a gripping, raw and breathtaking piece of storytelling that keeps you feeling the impending sense of danger yet shows a hero that will be remembered long after the credits.