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Captain Phillips
Genre Thriller
 
Review:

In an age dominated by superheroes, it's always refreshing to hear about real-life heroes. You know, those people who see an opportunity to step in and have the courage to follow through. Captain Richard Phillips is one such person, who made headlines worldwide when the US-flagged MV Maersk Alabama container vessel he was captaining became the target of a pirate attack in the Somalian Basin in 2009.

Captain Phillips recounts this true story in what could be described as a mixture of Castaway and Zero Dark Thirty. Castaway, reflected by Tom Hanks in the title role, the maritime survival story and the deep-seated psychological drama at play. Zero Dark Thirty, in the docudrama feel, U.S. foreign politics, character portrait of a selfless American and based on a true story intensity.

Tom Hanks is phenomenal as Captain Phillips. The film hinges on a strong performance from this actor and Hanks delivers as an ordinary man faced with extraordinary responsibility as the captain of the ship. It's a tense, powerful and emotionally-charged film that immerses you in his world and Hanks takes us there with an Oscar-calibre performance and a return to form.

While the powerful story and lead performance captivate us, it's Bourne Ultimatum director, Paul Greengrass who steers this heaving thriller. Greengrass hijacks the audience with an ever present intensity that seeps into every minute. We're cast headlong into a desperate deep sea emergency as the director taunts us with hit-and-miss opportunities. It's been directed like a tight sports game, pitting the Alabama crew against the Pirates.

Greengrass uses documentary style camera work to immerse us in the reality of the container ship with handheld cameras and unquestionable visual effects. It's not long before each side share the radar screen and the mind games begin.

The Somali pirates are intimidating, but haven't simply been treated as faceless bad guys. We're given a behind-the-scenes view into their desperate and complex state of affairs. Their skeletal bodies and limited choices make them victims of another kind, while their wild card apathy and AK 47s give them power.

The casting of these actors turns up the heat on the drama and adds firepower to the authenticity of Captain Phillips. These unknown actors look the part and are incredibly convincing as modern day pirates. While Hanks is in a league of his own, his performance is enhanced by going head-to-head with the pirate captain, played by Barkhad Abdi in a paranoid turn by a debutant actor who seems to live and breathe the part.

What starts as a "business" devolves into a dangerous chess game between two factions who are just doing their job. A defenseless US crew and desperate Somali fishermen become locked in a stale mate as each side tries to outplay the other. The retort "everything is going to be alright" echoes as a no casualty guarantee evaporates under escalating hostility.

Captain Phillips is an intense, nail-biting and emotionally-draining thriller. Paul Greengrass keeps us on edge with realistic and harrowing lose-lose scenarios that offer a flicker of hope only to be flooded by a razor blade reality. Tom Hanks keeps us emotionally anchored with a soul-searching and nuanced performance as the quick-thinking captain.

The bottom line: Intense

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