Director Paul Green Grass (United 93, Bloody Sunday, the two best Bourne films) brings to life his vision of the real life Richard Phillips, a Bostonian sea captain aboard the Maersk Alabama who is pursued boarded and captured by four desperate Somali pirates in 2009.
The story of Captain Phillips was always going to be in safe hands with both Hanks and Greengrass involved in the project. An actor who’s never given a bad performance and a director who has proven he can handle bringing real events to the big screen.
After a short, parallel set up between the Alabama and the Somali pirates the film becomes absolutely riveting once both boats hit the water. Yet what really makes the film is what Greengrass left out of it. Not extraneous subplots of worried families and relatives, no Washington Presidential war rooms and ‘we don’t negotiate with terrorists’ phone conversations. Though there is a heavy military chest beating or American bravado despite the fact that the SEAL team involved in the rescue would later go on to kill Osama Bin Laden. There’s Phillips, a capable yet terrified man, and his captors, who know nothing else than taking what they want to survive.
Leader of the pirates Muse, played by newcomer Barkhad Abdi gives an excellent performance as he struggles to control his crew as the situation becomes more desperate. His relationship with Phillips – or Irish, as he calls him, becomes more complex.
But this show belongs to Tom Hanks, who in any other year would have been guaranteed a Best Actor Oscar nod for his performance. His performance is understated but you are never left in any doubt he know the gravity and danger of the situation of just how scared he is.
So much care, attention and detail have gone into bringing the story of the Maersk Alabama to the big screen it shows the dangers lurking out there in the real world every day for ordinary men like Phillips and his crew.
Running Time: 134 minutes
Starring: Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi, Kathleen Keener
Director: Paul Greengrass