Film review

Tom Hanks stars in Columbia Pictures' Captain Phillips.
Tom Hanks stars in Columbia Pictures' Captain Phillips.

Gavin Miller reviews Captain Phillips (12A)

The buzz has been pretty high for this ‘based-on-a-true-story’ thriller about the real-life Somali pirate hijacking of a US ship in 2009 – and for the most part it’s well deserved.

Tom Hanks puts in another Oscar-nomination worthy performance (though a third win would be a stretch) under the guidance of acclaimed United 93 and The Bourne Ultimatum helmer Paul Greengrass in this effective edge-of-the-seat thriller.

But it’s arguably the cast of Somali pirates – particularly Barkhad Abdi as leader Muse – who really make this movie such a compelling watch.

Cleverly, director Greengrass doesn’t just throw Muse – and his three compatriots – literally in at the deep end, but shows an intriguing empathetic back story that outlines the lengths these poor Somali villagers will go to – all to please greedy money-hungry bosses.

And this time these pirates have really gone for a big fish, by targeting American container vessel the Maersk Alabama, which is travelling 145 miles off the Somali coast with a 20-man strong crew.

But through some instinctive anti-pirate techniques and delaying tactics, the ship’s captain Richard Phillips (Hanks) provides heroism which leads to an intriguing stand-off as the unarmed ship is boarded by these fearless African invaders.

For those of you who don’t know the story, the rest of this review will be plot free – but suffice to say this is tense stuff despite the final third dragging a tad.

But it’s particularly the chemistry between Hanks and Abdi that makes it a must-see as the duo find themselves at the mercy of powers beyond their control.

It is arguably only a film that needs to be seen just the once, and lacks that certain bit of ‘magic’ to make it truly a movie ‘great’ – but this is solid and competent fare that deserves attention despite a few alleged inaccuracies given that Hollywood spin.

It’s also a welcome return-to-form for one of Tinseltown’s finest stars – as Hanks comes through choppy waters to steer this elegantly into the year’s top ten films.

Rating: 4/5