Film Review: Captain Phillips

Captain Phillips

Paul Greengrass’s based-on-true-events thriller is taut for the most part, and engaging throughout.

Captain Phillips is in charge of the Maersk Alabama, a vessel carrying containers destined for Mombasa. As the Maersk Alabama is approached by two small boats travelling at speed, Captain Phillips warns his crew to ready themselves for a possible Somali pirate attack…

Paul Greengrass is a director who is skilled at building tension, and this skill is most apparent in Captain Phillips. The film is very effective at gripping viewers in pivotal scenes.

The first half of the film is very strong. The second half lets momentum slip slightly, but Captain Phillips recovers for a thrilling finale. There are scenes in the film which are simply enthralling.

The story unfolds at a good pace. Action is condensed from the timescale of actual events, but this seems necessary for maintaining tension and relaying the story in just over two hours.

Billy Ray’s screenplay gives away enough about the protagonist to make viewers care about the outcome. Nonetheless, the focus remains on the action. Some sequences are frenetic in their tension. Greengrass’s direction and the sound are highly effective in these scenes. Other scenes serve to exhibit the realities of the situation.

Tom Hanks delivers a marvellous performance throughout. It is the film’s final scene, however, that really conveys Hanks’ acting prowess. Performances elsewhere are decent, with Barkhad Abdi standing out as Muse, leader of the attackers.

Captain Phillips is a triumph of direction and performance. Although there is some slack in the second half, the film is most entertaining.

Captain Phillips opens the BFI London Film Festival on 9th October 2013.