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4.7 out of 5 stars
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4.7 out of 5 stars
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The beating heart of this film is the rock like performance of Tom Hanks and Paul Greengrass's fast paced direction that requires a seat with a reinforced edge since it is the only part of the cinema furniture you sit on during the course of this enthralling film. It is the story of the attempt on 8th April 2009 by Somali pirates to hijack the United States-registered cargo vessel, the Maersk Alabama, as it headed towards the port of Mombasa some two hundred or so miles off the east coast of Africa. Hanks plays mild mannered US Captain Richard Phillips an ordinary man driven to extraordinary resistance. The film however has an significant undercurrent not least attempting to set out, albeit rather too briefly, the deep poverty which drives former Somali fishermen to risk life and limb in the highly dangerous and parlous pursuit of these huge vessels. Certainly the presence of the drugs and gangs are a factor not least the evidence that the khat trade is partially funded by ransom money from pirates as lucrative cash-based business, based on the culture of khat chewing in Kenya and Somalia. Yet in this case the young men in question meet a formidable if terrified opponent.

The action in the film starts from the outset and is taught and breathless as Somali pirates chase Hanks ship and attempt to board it. These scenes are brilliantly directed and the camera work is first rate. The presence of no firearms on board gives them a huge advantage and eventually the story plays out as they eventually board the ship but Hanks does all in his power to thwart their efforts while his crew hides in the engine rooms below silent, scared and weapon-less. The tension in the film is often unbearable. Throughout the pirates led by Abulwali Muse, is brilliantly played by Barkhad Abdi, watch as the power politics and their logistics shift. The presence of huge US Navy vessels in the area stand in sharp contrast to their old speedboats whose engines cut out and stall. The interplay between Hanks and Abdi is the clash of two cultures with the middle class American Captain and a young man in hock to gang culture. Ironically it is Muse who is the bigger victim, his prospects are doomed from the start. He needs to make a huge sum from the capture of the Maersk Alabama and yet as soon as he steps on that ships deck it is Phillips who is the master at sea. To tell the second half of the film would be too much of a spoiler suffice it to say that it builds to a palpable sense of danger and an agonising conclusion.

Throughout it is almost impossible to fault the tight script of screenwriter Billy Ray and Paul Greengrass's surefooted direction. His previous films like "United 93" showed that he can take the biggest of themes and skilfully weave a superb film from such fabric. With Tom Hanks as his big name star in "Captain Phillips" he squeezes out his finest performance in years and you sweat and perspire along with him. The real skill of this film however is not to lock it down as a simple morality tale about one man's heroism, but to bring in the weight global forces and show that the pirates are dwarfed by this and their own backgrounds. At the end of the day the overriding impression of this superb film is the portrayal of a group of unskilled, impoverished young men being forced by a sizeable militia into risking all for the production of ransom money who are literally all at sea. "Captain Phillips" is easily one of 2013's finest cinematic moments.
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on 29 December 2015
One of Tom Hanks' best film in a long time. Paul Greengrass gives both sides of the events giving it tension, thrills and empathy. Incredible to think that this was the acting debuts of those playing the pirates. Filming on an actual sister ship of real life ship in question and at sea gave it added realism and credibility. Definitely worth watching.
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on 24 October 2013
Cinema has come a long way since Under Siege. The titular hero of this story is no expert in hand-to-hand or weapons and tactics. He's definitely not a cook.

Tom Hanks is Richard Phillips, captain of the Alabama cargo ship, en route to Mombasa via Somali no-man's water. Muse (impressive newcomer Barkhad Abdi) arrives with a handpicked crew of pirates, and they board the Alabama. Nail-biting tension and hostage-taking will follow. It's best that one goes into the film knowing no more.

Paul Greengrass is the best director working today in the authentic documentary aesthetic. He knows that the drama is in the detail. Captain Phillips' most thrilling moments are when Greengrass is most exacting and pedantic about characters' relative positions within the environment. That sounds kind of formal, but then Greengrass's shaky-cam does veil an essential precision. He focuses on the immediate situation, leaving us the viewers to picture it in the wider political context.

As with Kathryn Bigelow, Greengrass's anti-polemical style is occasionally a curse but mostly a blessing. The action may occur on the surface, but there's depth beneath the objectivity - perhaps best encapsulated in the image of three mighty US warships surrounding a tiny craft in international waters.

The implicit themes are globalisation and imperialism. The opportunism of the pirates is met with a defence based on an escalating chain of command. It's chaos versus structure; improvisation versus meticulous contingency planning. Money is nothing without an entrenched system to contain it and protect it. Sorry, Africa - we'll throw food parcels in your direction but we won't help you build long-term infrastructure plans, and you sure as hell can't step on "our" turf.

When the pirates are first approaching the Alabama, Muse presents his gang as seaborne law enforcers, and I couldn't help thinking of the United States' assumed position as "world police"...

More than anything, Captain Phillips reminds us of the power of Hanks and Greengrass, two servants of cinema at the absolute top of their game, and that should be recommendation enough. It's worth paying to see - please don't pirate it!
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on 27 December 2015
Great film, tom hanks just brilliant acting . It keeps you watching I thought this film would of been boring , but far from it a very exciting film with frustrating emotions whilst watching it. I would highly recommend this film one of the best films I have seen in a long time.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 7 September 2014
"Captain Phillips", as I found out from watching one hour worth of extras on the DVD, is the true story of a cargo ship skipper, whose vessel was hijacked by pirates off the coast of Somalia in 2009. From the very first minutes of the film I was HOOKED and only breathed out once the credits started to roll (yes, it helps if you do not know the outcome of the events prior to watching this pulse-pounding thriller/documentary).

Tom Hanks plays an unexceptional guy at the heart of an exceptional disaster. He plays a no-nonsense captain with a lot of courage - yet he is no superhuman. Hanks was superb, I thought - throughout the film and at the end, during the scene of his emotional collapse. Opposite him, Muse (played by newcomer Barkhad Abdi) is all skinny cheekbones and malnutrition and nail-biting orders.

The whole film felt like creeping hysteria. "Captain Phillips" is a gripping, tormenting, brutalizing and surprisingly thought-provoking film! Recommended!
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on 7 November 2013
It was the best film i have seen in a long time, it is up there with Skyfall. When you go to see this you expect it to be cheesy, but no, it was anything but. Tom Hanks played it brilliantly, spot on. It is a gripping, true, story line and you would never loose concentration. I just cant wait until it is out on DVD. I own the book by Richard Phillips and it is very similar to the true story. A easily recommended film to watch.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 15 March 2014
This is compelling viewing in part because of the superb perfomance given by Tom Hanks as the Captain of a container ship attacked by Somali pirates. The tension builds and builds troughout the film, before reaching a startling climax. The relative powerlessnes of modern technology in the face of a determined and resourceful challenge comes across througout from the ease with which the attackers could attack a massive modern ship to the constraints on the military on addressing the challenge when human lives are at stake.

This is remarkable human drama - the stresses on the Somalis are made clear too - and Tom Hank's performance is powerful, engaging, and entrirly believable.

This is a must watch film
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on 9 March 2014
Oh wow, what a brilliant film. We sat and watched this without moving for 2 hours 10 minutes and it was absolutely gripping. Tom Hanks is a wonderful actor and I would recommend anyone who hasn't seen it to buy it on Amazon. Worth every penny.
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on 8 April 2016
Good watch, but it should have been longer and more entertaining. The snipers are a bit unreal if you ask me - how you are supposed to make a very accurate shot when two boats are bobbing up and down violently is beyond my comprehension - so, a little far fetched towards the end. I'm sure the story line could have been made a lot more exciting and prolonged without compromising the budget though. I hope that these vessels are currently allowed to defend themselves with better weapons than water cannon though - otherwise there's no real deterrent against these modern day, desperate "Pirates of the Seas".
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on 26 March 2014
What? Stoned feral Kalashnikov wielding thieves who'd gun you down if you gave them a dirty look? Where's jolly jokey Johnny Depp prancing about with his funny hair and his idiosyncratic Keith Richards accent? At last an on-screen portrayal of seagoing pirates as they are and always have been - murderous thieving scum. Hats off to the actors who played the chilling and permanently menacing roles of the pirate gang - utterly convincing. Tom Hanks has yet to do a bad movie in my opinion so the quality of his performance was never in doubt. As always, this tale is all the better for being based upon a true incident. Memorable, unique and well worth a look.
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