Starring: Tom Hanks (Saving Private Ryan), Barkhad Abdi, Catherine Keener (Being John Malkovich), Michael Chernus (Men in Black 3)
Director: Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Ultimatum)
Writer: Billy Ray (The Hunger Games)
Runtime: 2 hours 14 minutes
Release Date: 11 October (US), 18 October (UK)
Films based on true events are always a tricky subject; you have to balance both trying to make an entertaining movie and making sure the film is accurate. Inevitably, concessions have to be made and that pisses off certain people. Considering I know next to nothing about the real Richard Phillips and his ordeal with Somali pirates, I can’t confirm whether Captain Phillips is the most accurate representation of a true story ever or a bunch of Hollywood-ised bollocks (though from what I’ve heard, I’d say its closer to the former). But no matter how accurate it is, one thing is certain: this is one hell of a flick.
Captain Phillips takes a little too long to get going; the film opens with a couple of scenes with Phillips (Hanks) before setting out to sea, and they are pretty pointless other than setting up some very standard stakes and exposition. But, once the plot finally kicks in, you are in for one hell of a ride. Whilst the proceedings never quite reach the nail-biting intensity of something like Prisoners, it comes damn close at points. In case you don’t know the story already, I won’t go into much more detail. My only problem is I think the film could have been a little tighter. When the stakes are high and the plot is moving, the film flies by at break-neck speed. But when the storm subsides, it fails to keep up the slack. Certain scenes go on a bit too long, some hold-your-breath moments ask us to hold for too long. It’s not too annoying, but I think a good five or ten minutes could have been trimmed and helped keep the story chugging at a consistent speed.
Tom Hanks has always been one of our finest living actors, but he hasn’t really had a chance to show off his chops for a while now. Luckily, his performance here fits the bill and is one of his best in a long time. Richard Phillips is by no means an extraordinary man, but Hanks imbues him with enough humanity that you do care a lot by the film’s conclusion. It’s a performance that only gets better as the film’s intensity increases, before blossoming into several wonderful tear-jerking moments as the film comes to a halt. The film is certainly Hanks’ show, but newcomer Barkhad Abdi as the lead pirate Mewes manages to brilliantly keep pace with our lead throughout. His gaunt face, threatening demeanour and determined attitude make for a truly chilling antagonist, but also one whose motivations you can understand. The rest of the cast gives it their all as well, but in the end it is Hanks and Abdi that make the movie.
Paul Greengrass has shown he can make one hell of an intense picture with films like Bourne Ultimatum and United 93 under his belt, but with Captain Phillips he may have finally perfected his style. Greengrass was one of the first filmmakers to make heavy use of shaky-cam, and for my money I’d say he’s the only one who does it well. He uses it to increase the tension and uneasiness, not as a lazy gimmick. It never pulls you out of the movie and it is always clear what is going on. For a film whose latter half mostly takes place in a tightly compacted area no bigger than the average car and is still able to make a movie this gripping and tense, the director has to be doing something right.
Captain Phillips is a stupendous thrill ride that should not be missed. Hanks’ performance alone makes it worth the price of admission, but Abdi and Greengrass sweeten the deal. An Oscar contender for certain and one of my favourite movies of the year so far too. And to anyone who is about to speak up about any potential inaccuracies, I have this to say: as long as the film itself is entertaining, does it really matter whether it is 100% accurate or not?
FINAL VERDICT: 9.5/10