At the Movies - Captain Phillips - Review

Tom Hanks as Captain Rich Philips.
Tom Hanks as Captain Rich Philips.

Paul Greengrass’ penchant for perfectly paced films is something other filmmakers can only dream of.

Paul Greengrass’ penchant for perfectly paced films is something other filmmakers can only dream of.

Captain Philips director, Paul Greengrass.

Captain Philips director, Paul Greengrass.

The Surrey born director needs no introduction in this part of the world; he directed the critically acclaimed ‘Bloody Sunday’ in 2002 after which he went on to make both high octane spy thrillers ‘The Bourne Supremacy’ and ‘The Bourne Ultimatum’.

Whilst Greengrass’ ‘Flight 93’ is an absolute masterpiece in filmmaking, 2010’s ‘Green Zone’ lacked a lot of what went before.

‘Captain Phillips’ is Greengrass’ first film in three years and if I had to have waited 30 years, it would have been worth it.

The patience on show in ‘Captain Phillips’ is remarkable and Greengrass displays fantastic discipline and resists the urge to exhaust his dramatic arsenal early on.

The film recounts the real life story of the captain of the MV Maersk Alabama, Rich Phillips.

In April 2009 four Somali pirates board the Maersk Alabama, which was carrying aid to parts of Africa. The pirates attempted to take the 20 strong crew hostage but their plan failed and, with Captain Phillips as their prisoner, they escaped on board the ship’s lifeboat.

It’s a remarkable story to say the least but Greengrass shows no complacency.

A good story always tells itself and again Greengrass displays great self-control by not succumbing to the temptation of adding unnecessary sentiment and Hollywoodesque twists and turns.

The film works towards its climax brilliantly and the change in atmosphere and mood emanating from the pirates is executed perfectly.

Two time Academy Award winner Tom Hanks is simply breathtaking as Phillips and despite some recent well below average movies (‘Angels and Demons’) he effortlessly manages to give one of the most memorable performances of his career.

Watching Hanks go from a safety conscious Captain Phillips who is a born leader to hysterical human being close to death is outstanding.

Like Greengrass’ guile for pace, Hanks’ longevity is not something many experience in the movie business.

Hanks was first nominated for an Academy Award in 1988 after he starred in ‘Big’ and it would be no surprise if he gets the nod ahead of next year’s showpiece.

Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of ‘Captain Phillips’ is the story behind the decision to cast Somalian born Barhad Abdi as the leader of the pirate gang.

Abdi was working as a taxi/limo driver in Minneapolis when he heard a production company was looking for Somalis to act in Greengrass’ new film.

Oscar buzz is synonymous with time of year and Abdi is one of the names film critics appear to be tipping for a possible award.

Some critics have gone as far as to say that Abdi is the star of the film and whilst I think that’s a tad excessive it should not take anything away from the fact that his performance as a very human character is a fantastic achievement.

‘Captain Phillips’ is currently showing at the Brunswick Moviebowl; for full cinema listings visit or telephone 028 7137 1999.

VERDICT 5/5 - ‘Captain Phillips’ is a wonderful example of what can be made possible by superb directing and outstanding acting.

Greengrass’ film boasts the most amazing pace and as it works towards a climax the English born director never threatens to compromise on the story but opts to let the story tell itself - equal if not better than ‘Flight 93’.

Hanks is outstanding and will be nominated for an Oscar and newcomer Barhad Abdi is refreshingly wet behind the ears.