With “Argo” taking away the Best Picture win at the 2013 Academy Awards, it only proved that Hollywood can, and will, churn out the real-life dramas that can only be real in their inexplicable insanity.
This year’s real-life drama is “Captain Phillips,” based on the 2009 cargo ship hijacking of the Maersk Alabama and the kidnapping of Captain Richard Phillips by the crew of Somalian pirates.
The film shows both sides of the story, opening to both Phillips departing home for a plane to Oman, and the Somalian pirates picking their crews to go in search of a ship.
Audiences get a brief glimpse into the future of the ship when Phillips receives an email warning of pirate activity off the coast of Somalia. It is during an unscheduled piracy exercise that approaching ships are discovered on the radar. Despite their best efforts, the crew of four pirates boards the ship and searches for the crew.
When negotiations with the pirates ends in the kidnapping of Captain Phillips, we see the scrambling of nearby U.S. Naval ships to respond to the escalating crisis. It is when the SEALS arrive on the scene that the event is resolved and Phillips rescued.
The most-tense part of the movie is not when the captain is forced to assist in a search of the ship for the crew, distracting the pirates from the crews efforts to leave the ship dead in the water, but is when Phillips is forced into close quarters with the pirates. With the leader Muse trying to control his volatile crew member and keep Phillips alive as a bargaining chip, the environment leaks into the audience as they wait with baited breath for the next burst of violence.
Tom Hanks gives an award worthy performance in perhaps one of his most challenging roles. As the man responsible for twenty other lives, and finally strictly for his own, Hanks manages to range from cool control to shell-shocked from the events of the movie.
Seeing Phillips speechless, covered in the blood of the pirates who held him, Hanks conveys the vulnerability of a man realizing he will live to see his family again. With Barkhad Abdi portraying Abduwali Muse, the pirate crew leader, with a ferocity and sensitivity of a man out to prove something, the movie is not short of impressive acting chops.
With Maersk, and by extension Phillips, facing lawsuits over the events in 2009 and how behavior of the company and captain led to the attack, the movie jumps the captain back into the in the media spotlight. Whether creative liberties led to inaccuracies to the story, either way, the film stands as a bright spot of excitement and triumph on the screen.
“Captain Phillips” is rated PG-13 for sequences of menace, bloody violence and substance use. It is now playing in theatres.