Captain Phillips
Crime, Drama, Thriller, Action, Adventure, Biography
IMDB rating:
Paul Greengrass
Tom Hanks as Captain Richard Phillips
Faysal Ahmed as Najee
Mahat M. Ali as Elmi
Mohamed Ali as Asad
Barkhad Abdi as Muse
Michael Chernus as Shane Murphy
David Warshofsky as Mike Perry
Yul Vazquez as Captain Frank Castellano
Chris Mulkey as John Cronan
Corey Johnson as Ken Quinn
Catherine Keener as Andrea Phillips
Max Martini as SEAL Commander
Storyline: Captain Phillips is a multi-layered examination of the 2009 hijacking of the U.S. container ship Maersk Alabama by a crew of Somali pirates. It is - through director Paul Greengrass's distinctive lens - simultaneously a pulse-pounding thriller, and a complex portrait of the myriad effects of globalization. The film focuses on the relationship between the Alabama's commanding officer, Captain Richard Phillips (two time Academy Award®-winner Tom Hanks), and the Somali pirate captain, Muse (Barkhad Abdi), who takes him hostage. Phillips and Muse are set on an unstoppable collision course when Muse and his crew target Phillips' unarmed ship; in the ensuing standoff, 145 miles off the Somali coast, both men will find themselves at the mercy of forces beyond their control.
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Greengrass strikes again
British director Paul Greengrass delivers the goods in this taut and terrifying true-life thriller centred around Somali pirates and the innocent civilians they put at risk. Greengrass shapes a true story of hijacking on the high seas and turns it into an incredibly suspenseful story that bears all the hallmarks of the likes of UNITED 93.

The thing about Greengrass is that he knows how to build suspense, and he knows how to deliver thrilling intensity. CAPTAIN PHILLIPS is full of incredible scenes in which the tension is ratcheted up stage by stage, until things explode into excitement. This is a film of two halves, with the hijacking taking up the first half while the second half turns into a single-location thriller along the lines of Hitchcock's LIFEBOAT. Both halves complement each other and prove a satisfying whole.

I'm no fan of Tom Hanks, but CAPTAIN PHILLIPS sees him deliver a strong performance as the testy, unlikeable captain put through his paces by the Somalis. The Somali actors are excellent in their roles, and I particularly liked the differentiation of character in the pirate gang - you feel like you've got to know them come the end. The cat and mouse games between crew and pirates are expertly staged and the pace never flags despite the lengthy running time. CAPTAIN PHILLIPS is nothing less than a modern-day classic.
Exceptionally effective real-life thriller
Hollywood is often accused of providing only shallow entertainment and not making enough films about important issues or watering them down. I don't share that point of view. It's business, of course, and the masses demand escapism, but there has always been a deliberate effort to go beyond that from time to time and that effort alone deserves appreciation. Many deep, meaningful films have emerged from Hollywood during its history, encompassing diverse important themes ranging from the very personal to the very political. Captain Phillips is one of them, and an exceptionally well-made one at that.

Paul Greengrass has already proved with Bloody Sunday and United 93 that he is a master of real-life dramatisations, and Captain Phillips, telling the story of the hijacking of a container ship by Somali pirates and the ensuing hostage crisis, may very well be his best film yet. It is an incredibly intense, suspenseful thriller with impeccable performances from both Tom Hanks (in the title role) and Barkhad Abdi (the leader of the pirates). In the opening sequences, Greengrass masterfully builds up the ominous anticipation, just as he did in United 93. The film grabs your attention from the get-go and glues you to your seat until the very end. There are no unnecessary dialogues, additions or embellishments, and no issues are dumbed down here. The story is told in a highly effective, economical, documentary style, and the focus is on the motives and emotional reactions of the people involved so that you can truly feel and understand what they were going through.

Captain Phillips deserved all six Oscar nominations. One of the best films of the decade.
A truly boring story
What's the point? Shooting a personal monument to Captain Phillips? The story is really not worth a movie. Actually Somali pirates are not a very interesting antagonist group in terms of action, but the movie does depict that well. A bit too well when comes the final part and the U.S. of A. unleashes hell to handle the situation.

Maybe one can appreciate that it is not a dumb Hollywood actioneer with cliché bad guys kicking everything around until the empire strikes back. But what difference does it make in the end when the Navy firepower comes into play? True story may be gripping. I'd say they are when it is more about character than about action. Here in Captain Phillips - as in United 93 - it is about action and true to life action is somewhat weak. Honesty never was a prerequisite for a good movie, but I guess Paul Greengrass's talent has been wasted on the false perception that his ability to shoot action sequences was rooted in an efficient 'honest-documentary-style' approach. On the other hand I guess Greengrass himself is attracted to real-life characters which unfortunately lead to weaker all-around action than with a movie-calibrated hero.

I hope Greengrass finds a hero with substance who also happens to be caught in a vortex of action. In a nutshell: some Jason Bourne with a memory and a conscience.
A face is given to the seldom news figures of Somali pirates, and the film leaves you wondering who is the real victim.
This is another one of those films I skipped while it was in theaters since, honestly, I wasn't really looking for a film which would have had a one dimensional African, specifically Somalian, villain the same way the Russians and Chinese have been villains in action movies for decades. But, with Tom Hanks in the film and there being praise for co- star Barkhad Abdi, I gave into temptation. And honestly, while Hanks may have been the main draw, I left a bigger fan of Abdi's.

Characters & Story

The focus of the movie is Richard Phillips (played by Tom Hanks) who is an America ship captain, who is working around the horn of Africa, and meets a young Abduwali Muse (played by Barkhad Abdi) who meet in less than cordial circumstances due to Muse being a pirate trying to take over Phillips' ship. However, despite him coming off as a bad guy, Muse seemingly is a victim of circumstance. Where he lives there isn't any such thing as social mobility and the effects of globalization has taken a toll on any type of life he could have. Fishing can't really be done for the larger, and financially more powerful, nations have basically wiped that option, and being that his area is dominated, and controlled, by an unseen organization that harasses Muse's village, the only option is to be a pirate to make money and keep his people fed and safe.

But, when these two meet, though Muse tries to be as nice as possible. He even giving Phillips the nickname "Irish." However, being that Phillips knows procedure and considers himself, and his crew, smarter than Muse and his crew, you see Phillips try to play a game with them in which, quite a few times, his ego leads to him getting assaulted, among other things. But, despite Phillips actions, Muse tries his best to keep him alive so he can get the ransom money and go home, but with Phillips complicating matters, Muse ends up damn near in a life or death situation quite a few times.


As you may note by the story summary, and intro, I liked Abdi's depiction of the character Muse, and the reason for that is that when you watch the trailer for the film, you foresee some sad depiction of Somali pirates which you think are going to be as shallow as other foreign nation villains going against an American. But, being that this is based on a true story, of which seemingly Phillips wasn't the only one kept in mind, Muse is allowed to be a human who may seem greedy, a pirate, and etc., but as you get to know him enough to understand that he sees his options as limited and he, to Phillips' face, reminds you that his country isn't America. You are reminded there is no, pull yourself up by the bootstraps or any of those things Americans, if not the western world as a whole, take for granted. For people like him, you either fight until someone dies or do as you are told. Making it so, despite Phillips technically being the victim, I found Muse to more so be the one who I felt bad for. Even without him not necessarily shedding any tears.


When it comes to criticism, like most films based on true stories, there is an issue with time length. Part of the reason I had an issue with the time is because after a while you can assesses Muse and his friends and you can see, while desperate, they aren't really trying to do more than get their money and go. Thus bringing the amount of threat to Phillips, as well as his crew, to a nil and making it where all there are, for the most part, are bullets shot in the air. Then, to add onto that, Hanks just doesn't command your attention in the film despite being the protagonist, and makes it so you just stop caring about him and his character.

Overall: TV Viewing

Quite honestly, though I like Abdi's performance in the film, and hope more comes his way in terms of roles, the movie as a whole was boring. Once you realize that the pirates are amateurs, Phillips has more control over the situation than them, and then they aren't willing to fully assert themselves, the film seems like a Looney Tunes film with Hanks playing a smarter version of Elmer Fudd and everyone else being Daffy Duck. Thus making this a TV viewing type film.
More like a drama than an action movie
There is one question in my mind that is never addressed in the movie: why did they go near pirate infested water with no weapons? If they had guns or shields they could have repelled the pirates. Since the issue is not addressed, I can only assume the captain is stupid, which makes this a movie about a stupid person.

I also don't find Tom Hank's performance realistic. He acted too calmly, and didn't even break a sweat. Strangely, near the end he had a nervous breakdown. It almost look fake considering how calm he had been up to that point.

Another thing that didn't make sense is why the pirates would leave the ship at all. When the ship's crew released the pirate captain, he could simply stay on the ship.
The Definition of Over-dramatization
4.5 of 10. From the beginning car conversation to the end, this feels like an over-dramatization made worse and more artificial with voice overs. To make it worse, it's far too long for this kind of story.

What should be a heroic tragedy is little more than a military-industrial, flag-waving, propaganda film. And I'm fairly certain the military doesn't read international people arrested for crimes their rights as an American citizen. So much fake stuff like this takes what should also feel more like a documentary and makes it into what only deserves showing on TV during Memorial, Independence, or Veterans Day weekend.
True Story or Not, it's a Hollywood Movie.
While it would be difficult to give a movie based on the incredible bravery of a real life individual a completely bad review, it is only fair to consider this on its own merits as a movie. In which respect, it's perhaps only slightly above average.

I don't know how accurate a portrayal of the events is given here. Of course, the fear and tension of being in such a situation can never be fully conveyed through a medium in which peril and danger are commonplace. We all know that the titular character returned home, the prolific news coverage has ensured that we are fully aware of this event and rightfully so. From a filmatic perspective this leads to a movie where we the audience know the ending and this in itself takes even further away the sense of uncertainty and fear that must surely have been overwhelming in the real events.

Now most film-goers should be fully aware of the Hollywood-isation of these kinds of movies. It's easy to spot in places, perhaps less so in others. Tom Hanks role as lead seems more like a blend of high profile star and, given his status as an actor, mark of respect. This leads to a case where the Captain Phillips in this movie seems more like a Tom Hanks character than a representation of a real person. Very little is shown of him prior to the main event giving only minimal indication of the person he is, while this may be a case of respecting privacy, it further leads to the feeling that this is a Tom Hanks drama rather than a portrayal of a real event.

Having seen the trailer several times prior to release, I was under the impression that we may be given at least a reasonable amount of depth to the Pirates themselves. The sympathetic villains who themselves were victims of a bad circumstance driven to acts of atrocity by the trappings of a criminal empire of which they were little more than pawns. While this may have been hinted at, it was given little more than a minor recognition.

So what we have is a story (true, fictional or somewhere in between) of a good, upstanding, hard-working American as he survives the ordeal of capture by a group of greedy, immoral, ruthless Somalians, ultimately saved by the decisive actions of the defenders of the free world. However much truth there is to this story, it is also the perfect plot for any Hollywood movie, especially the sort with Tom Hanks as the lead.

In no way do I wish to devalue the undoubtedly horrific experience of the real-life Captain Phillips, nor do I wish to encourage forgiveness for those that imposed such suffering upon him. But we all know Hollywood takes liberties and we all know that this is a movie expressly made to entertain and earn money. My criticisms lie fully with that in mind. It's certainly not a bad film, Tom Hanks is, as always, on top form. Forgetting the previously known resolution, it is still tense and exciting. Even at over two hours long, it is a well- paced movie, never drawn out and never feeling over long. By all criteria I can think to offer fair judgment, it's an above average movie. Nevertheless while the real story is compelling enough to warrant viewing, this offers little more than another opportunity for America to demonstrate its greatness to the viewing masses.
screenplay was out-of-the box
When I started watching this movie, I was of the opinion that, another tom Hanks movie with some decent story-line and same old brilliance in acting. While on my way of watching this movie, I found the screenplay to be too gripping. The story was based on a true event which has been adapted from a novel based on the same incident. The dramatization of the event in such a way that it becomes more conveying and believable. Tom Hanks as always is a just can't expect anything less than that from him. The way the screenplay has been executed is really good and makes it more watchable.
Very tense & makes you think about both sides of the event and if the pirates were really evil or not. I say B+.
"It was supposed to be easy. I take over ship, get paid, no one gets hurt." In 2009 a Somali named Muse (Abdi) is in trouble and needs to get money for his boss fast or face the consequences. His plan is to hijack a cargo ship and hold it ransom until he gets his money. When he boards a ship captained by Rich Phillips (Hanks) he thinks he found his answer to his problems, but things only get worse for all involved. This is a true story. It's always more fun to watch a movie that is also a true story and even better when you see one that you remember the events when it was happening. As far as the movie goes it starts off pretty slow but grows more and more tense as it goes on. As great an actor as Tom Hanks is I found myself thinking that this is really a part that many people could pull off. Then I watched the last 20 minutes and realized why they got Hanks. Much like the movie Apollo 13, when you watch a movie that you know how it ends but still end up shedding a tear it is because of great filmmmaking. This falls into that category. A movie that builds momentum the entire time. Starts off slow but by the end you are hoping for more. I liked it. Overall, tense and makes you think about both sides of the event and if the pirates were really evil or not. I give it a B+.
Greengrass Struggles Aboard the MSV Maersk Alabama
Paul Greengrass of Bourne fame ventures into the semi-true story of Captain Richard Phillips and his encounter with the not-so-bloody not-so-terrifying pirates of the Somalian coast. When the MSV Maersk Alabama, loaded with food for the poor, starving children of Africa (rolleyes), embarks onto its course to the port of Mombasa from the Oman coastline, they are full aware of the dangers posed by pirate activity in the area. With Somalian kidnapping on the rise, the loaded cargo ship is but another prey for the rag-tag band of yellow-toothed AK47-wielding outlaws. Normally a crew would back down and hand over the ship peacefully, but not this yippee ki yay band of die hards (with glass traps to boot). Led by the scrawny Muse (Barkhad Abdi) this band of hijackers has met their match!!!

Achingly overwrought "Captain Phillips" intends to thrill, together with manipulative background music attempting to heighten the tension, where there is none to behold. Somehow, most people seem to have fallen into the trap set up by Tom Hanks and Greengrass' shaky cam, but when the foursome of motley pirates are set to collide with the navy and seals the attempt to keep tension high is as ludicrous as the outcome is inevitable. The fearless Somalian fishermen-turned outlaws versus the entire might of US military excellence - never has an action thriller been so lopsided in favour of the so-called 'good guys'. This is one movie where I actually found myself rooting for the 'bad guys', despite Greengrass's best intentions to have Phillips and the overbearing force of the US Navy being perceived positively.

Riddled with unnecessary focus on detail the movie irritates with its trite dialogue, often inserted to add some skin-deep expansion on the plight of Somalia, but never offering any attempt to flesh out any of the characters. Lacking any meaty commentary Greengrass basically offers a straight up action film, which however lacks the ingredients to make it interesting. The conclusion is foregone from the outset and the lack of depth fails to really emotionally involve with anyone. With the story basically devoid of tension from mid-way (when the terrorist kidnap Captain Phillips and use an escape pod to head for the mainland), the last hour is overbearing to the point of excruciating cries for the story to just end. The realistic fly-on-the-wall never really helps, as it struggles to imbue a sense of purpose of proceedings, making you almost wish for the crew to just dump Captain Phillips in the water, so the movie will finally end.

With an overwhelming sense of patronisation of the plight of Somalians, "Captain Phillips" also barely treads on the right side of the moral landscape. Not to say that Somali pirates are justified or noble, but the story has been literally whitewashed with the fearless 'whites' saving the day and outsmarting their opposition (I believe not a single talking part from the 'good side' was offered to a coloured person). The "Smiling Pirate" Muse has been vilified, not one mention being made of him actually being underage, with absolutely no focus being placed on 'his side of the story', apart from some banal shopworn tag-lines about his fisherman roots. The beginning was actually promising, when Muse was introduced, but soon focus shifts away from him and suddenly we become overpowered by American patriotism coupled with overblown music intended to force a sense of tension. Single lines of dialogue are afforded to wider ranging issues with Rich Phillips supplying an opening comment about the rat-race juxtaposed with the conditions of life of ordinary Somalians one of the few high points of the drama. Apart from that its an pompous mess of action overly focused on the title character and his emotional responses than to actually posing any serious questions.

Tom Hanks acts his heart out, but with such a divisory persona it's hard to really connect with him. The best acting is therefore on the side of the worn Somalian naturals like Abdi, who deserves Oscar recognition much more than Hanks. Nonetheless, the secondary cast of the cargo ship crew was mostly terrible and laughable in their execution, offering a few hardy laughs with their picturesque poses and worried mimicry.

Within the cascading amount of Somali pirate movies, this is by far the worst. "A Hijacking" is hardly a great movie, but shows how deficient Greengrass's storytelling is. Just around the corner: "Fighting without Nets" will premiere at Sundance and hopefully present a movie with more than one layer to it.