Whether it is being trapped in space, or trapped at sea – the hopelessness of being miles and miles away from anyone who can help you has always been frightening. And that is exactly what the 2009 true story of Captain Richard Phillips of the MV Maersk Alabama is about, as told in the 2013 film Captain Phillips.
What started off as a routine cargo shipment became Captain Phillips’ (Tom Hanks) worst nightmare. Pirate advisories were in effect for the Somalian Gulf, yet the route was the only way to get the cargo to its destination. As they traveled further and further into the vast ocean, the captain knew that a blip on the radar couldn’t be good. As a precaution he decides to pick up speed, but the small skiff kept getting faster and faster, closer and closer. As he called for help, the Merritt-time police told him it was probably just a fisherman. But Captain Phillips knew – these were pirates. All of the training that he and his crew of 20 ever had would come down to their actions in this moment, which might just save their lives.
Tom Hanks once again proves why he is one of the best in the business. The actor more often than not becomes the character he is playing, and Captain Phillips is no exception. Without knowing much of Phillips’ back-story, other than he has a wife and child, we quickly begin to care about him. Hanks is perfect in the role, not only because he nails the character, but because he is a genuinely likable guy. Even though the captain has a tough exterior, and a business-comes-first mentality, you can instantly tell he is a good person. And when a good person’s ship gets attacked by Somali pirates, we want to make sure he survives.
We’ve seen similar performances from Hanks in Apollo 13 and Cast Away, the latter in which he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor. Yet Captain Phillips may just be the role that puts another golden statue on his mantle.
I am not familiar with the story behind casting the Somali pirates, nor am I aware of any previous work. What I do know is that they are as frightening and menacing as I could imagine real-life pirates to be. If you told me the characters were played by ex-pirates, I wouldn’t doubt it. Faysal Ahmed plays Muse, the brains behind the attack, while Faysal Ahmed plays Najee – the brawn who is always ready to kill. The two of them, along with their two partners in crime, do a fantastic job of maintaining a constant presence of danger.
Captain Phillips is one of the most thrilling films I have seen, and knowing it is based on a true story makes the experience that much more real. One of the things I liked most was the connection with Hanks’ character. You are routing for the good guys, while trapped on the edge of your seat waiting to see what happens. Hanks and the rest of the cast do a tremendous job, and the film is sure to generate some early Oscar buzz as we are just starting October.
Captain Phillips is an A