Captain Phillips: Blu Ray Review
Released by Sony Home Ent
Tom Hanks is Captain Richard Phillips, a cargo ship captain, whose latest job sees him guiding the Maersk Alabama around the Horn of Africa. But as those in the waters know, that stretch of sea is famous for attacks from Somali pirates.
When a group of four pirates board the Alabama, the line between the Captain and the lead pirate Muse (Barkhad Abdi) is drawn - and so begins a psychological game which could have fatal consequences. Things get worse when the pirates kidnap Phillips and put him into a lifeboat trying to escape.
145 miles off the Somali coast and with the clock ticking, the stakes are raised even higher when the US military's called in to the first hijacking of one of their ships in over 200 years....will Phillips live to sail another day?
Captain Phillips is trademark Greengrass. The director of two of the Bourne trilogy films brings his usual eye for tension and detail to the fore of this tale that ramps up the suspense in some parts and simply tells the story as it is. But with an unnecessary shaky cam feel from the start - why this couldn't have been left until the water scenes I'll never know - it takes a while to get into the feel of the film and the drama. It's more a tale of two captains, who have desperation fuelling their decisions than a straight psychological piece. For Muse, it's fear from failing his superiors at home which spur him into the situation he finds himself in; and Abdi delivers a bony, edgy, nervily compelling performance which threatens to boil over at any point into horrifying consequences.
With Phillips, it's about the protection of his crew first off and Hanks does an excellent job of an average man trying to do an above average job in trying circumstances. It's a role Hanks has excelled at before and one that he shines at again, though in all honesty, it's not until the end of the movie that we actually see Hanks acting during a delayed emotive reaction to what's happened and it's spine-tinglingly good. Which is why it's a shame to report that there's no real emotional pull during the rest of the film. While the khat-chewing pirates are fairly well drawn out (there's the young newbie, the unpredictably volatile one, the one with heart) and stand out as characters of their own, it's only really when there's the head to head with Muse and Phillips that the film gains an edge. That tension seems to dissipate a little when the action moves off the boat and onto the submersible, which to be honest is somewhat of a surprise given that is where the claustrophobic atmosphere should have been ramped up. With shaky cam prevalent throughout, and no explanation as to why the military suddenly become so heavily involved in this altercation, there's a feeling that this flick leans quite heavily on Hanks' performance.
And that's a good thing given the level of underplayed intensity that he brings - certainly, by the end, I was a little more invested than I'd initially felt. While parts of Captain Phillips are all at sea, the underlying tension throughout niggles and inveigles its way under your skin - but it's all due, once again, to a powerhouse slow burning performance from Tom Hanks.