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26 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Captain Phillips - One of 2013's best films, 10 Nov. 2013
This review is from: Captain Phillips [DVD] [2013] (DVD)
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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Initial post: 20 Feb 2014 21:14:55 GMT
Great review of a fantastic film.

I enjoyed reading this exellent written review.
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