This film is relentless. The first twenty minutes or so before Captain Richard Phillips (played by Tom Hanks) even gets on the ship are the only respite we have from the intense events of the hijacking. It also clocks in at just over two hours long, which isn’t overly long for a film, but left me feeling exhausted by the end of Captain Phillips. It’s a thrill ride and the tension only rises throughout the movie.
Don’t get me wrong, it is well done and Tom Hanks is phenomenal in his role as Captain Phillips. Overall, the acting in the film was exceptional and the nature of the story lends itself to emotional investment. Phillips is set up as a family man who worries about his young son while driving to the airport with his wife. His experience with transporting cargo is evident and he’s quick to make precautions, knowing the waters he will be traveling through. And he’s able to think on his feet, which comes in handy when a drill on ship turns into real life.
It is fascinating the ways he was able to delay, distract and communicate with the pirates. Even under pressure, he was able to keep his eyes open and brain focused to find ways out of the situation at hand.
The depiction is not so black and white, however, by making the Somali pirates more multidimensional. Their captain Muse (played by Barkhad Abdi) is obviously there under the pressure of the elders of his village and the need for money – he is less interested in violence, although he feels it’s often necessary to get what he needs. Among the others in his crew were the contrasting characters of a strong man quick to use violence and a young man unaccustomed to the lifestyle of the other pirates.
It’s a film worth seeing, but don’t go on your day off thinking it will be a nice escape. It’s a tense, high-stakes story and the fact that it’s based on a true event makes it all the more compelling.