MRR Review: "Captain Phillips"

Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures

MRR Review: "Captain Phillips"

Rating: PG-13
Length: 134 minutes
Release Date: October 11, 2013
Directed by: Paul Greengrass
Genre: Biography, Crime, Drama

Tom Hanks is better than ever in his new film, "Captain Phillips." The movie, which made its debut at the 2013 New York Film Festival, is based on a book penned by the real-life Captain Richard Phillips, "A Captain's Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS, and Dangerous Days at Sea." Billy Ray adapted the book for the screen, and Paul Greengrass directed the film.

"Captain Phillips" tells the story of Captain Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks), a Vermont native, as he led the ship Maersk Alabama on a voyage to Kenya to drop off relief supplies. As the ship passed the coast of Somalia, pirates boarded the vessel.

Phillips and two crew members remained on the bridge while the remaining crew locked themselves in the engine room and were able to take control of the ship from there, rendering the bridge useless to the pirates. Eventually, they were able to capture one of the pirates and held him hostage.

The remaining pirates boarded a lifeboat, taking Captain Phillips with them. The crew offered to release their hostage in exchange for Captain Phillips. The deal was made, and the crew released the man, but the pirates didn't hold up their end of the bargain.

Phillips and the pirates drifted in the lifeboat for an agonizing five days, with Phillips coming to grips with the fact that he probably wouldn't make it out alive. Night was the only respite the group had from the blazing hot African sun, although they did have plenty of rations aboard the lifeboat.

As government agencies moved into the area, things became even more tense, and the pirates waved an AK-47 at Phillips on more than one occasion. Eventually, Navy SEAL snipers killed three of the pirates and saved Captain Phillips.

Paul Greengrass, who directed the film, came to the set with an impressive resume that included directing hit films such as "The Bourne Identity" franchise, "Bloody Sunday," and "United 93." He had no preconceived notions of what he was going to shoot and decided to let the characters and the scenes play themselves out naturally. In fact, he even kept Hanks separate from the actors who were playing the pirates until they were shooting the ship-boarding scene. Greengrass completely understood that, since most people had already heard about this story in the news, the only way to make it interesting was in the way he told it.

Greengrass credits a lot of the movie's success to the writer, Billy Ray. Ray's screenplay takes the viewers through all of the subplots, twists, and turns that the journalists didn't cover. Between the screenplay and the directing style, this movie comes off as totally human in its telling of tragedy and triumph. Instead of being simply reminiscent of what actually happened, it is a complete reflection of it.

Tom Hanks was a natural to play the role of Captain Phillips as he has made an entire career out of playing the roles of average men. Although it has served him well, Hanks admits that it also causes a lot of pressure as he strives for authenticity. He met with Phillips on several occasions before filming started to prepare for the role.

Hanks has an impressive resume, beginning in 1980 with a lead role in the hit television sitcom "Bosom Buddies." After several television guest appearances, he landed a small role in "Splash" before going on to star in hits such as "The Money Pit," "Big," and "Turner & Hooch." He started to move away from comedy and take on more serious roles with "Sleepless in Seattle," "A League of Their Own," "Forrest Gump," and "Apollo 13." Even Hanks isn't perfect, and he's starred in a few misses such as "The Da Vinci Code" and "Angels & Demons." As of 2013, Hanks has won sixty-nine awards, including two Oscars, and garnered an additional sixty-two nominations. "Captain Phillips" is destined to put Hanks in line for another slew of award nominations.

"Captain Phillips" is not necessarily a story about villains, but it certainly is a story about tragedy. These young pirates, including one who was still a juvenile, were most likely under intense pressure from Somali warlords to bring back large bounties from any ships passing through the area. Whatever the case, the situation was tragic, especially when set against the release of Captain Phillips, which was a triumph.

Whether the film's success is because of the story, the incredible acting, or the style of directing, this is one movie that should be on everyone's must-see list. Bring the tissues and be prepared to be perched on the edge of your seat waiting to see what happens next.

Rating: 3 out of 5