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Vault: 'Captain Phillips' (2013) Dir. Paul Greengrass

Updated: Aug 31, 2020

Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi, Faysal Ahmed, Michael Chernus, David Warshofsky, Corey Johnson, Chris Mulkey, Yul Vazquez and Catherine Keener

Based on the true story of the 2009 Maersk Alabama hijacking, this nail-biting thriller is in more than capable hands to bring it to the big screen...


Merchant mariner Captain Richard Phillips (Hanks) and his small crew led by First Officer Shane Murphy (Chenus) navigate the container ship MV Maersk Alabama from Oman through to Mombasa around the Horn of Africa.


Phillips is soon unnerved by the sight of 2 pirate skiffs approaching them. Pirate Abduwali Muse (Abdi) and his team board the boat, despite the crew trying to hold them off. The crew are all held at gun-point.


Philips must control the psychological pressure of facing his captors as the pressure mounts to save his crew, and desperation takes over for both sides when the US Navy arrive and the situation goes from bad to worse...

Going into this film, I was fully aware of the resolution - Richard Phillips survived the ordeal which I don't consider a spoiler as that is common knowledge. But I wasn't ready for the events surrounding the hijacking and subsequent hostage situation.


I admit that Tom Hanks drew me to this film, as he does with all his films, and I was on from the day he signed up to play Phillips and it's impossible to think of anyone else in the role. I can't describe the words for how gripping Hanks is once more on screen conveying every emotion possible in a way that goes just beyond acting.

As with his many roles, Hanks immerses himself to become the character. Here, he becomes Captain Phillips and you are with him from the start.

Kudos also to Barkhad Abdi, a newbie, who is chilling as the Somali pirate leader. It's hard to see the actors in this film other than the people they are portraying as they do so in a way that grips you. I straight away understood what Adbi wanted to convey in his portrayal, as with Hanks, and I was left clear as to their motivations and their ideals. There was no "villain" in my eyes, just two different cultures and countries butting heads in a dangerous situation.


From the tense hijacking sequence that makes inspirational use of the vast sea in which the 'Alabama' is crossing, going up against 2 small pirate skiffs and still losing, the film plays in two halves. The first is the hijacking and negotiations on the ship, and the second is the close quarters hostage situation inside the lifeboat with Phillips and his captors as the US Navy embark a rescue mission.

It is emotionally draining, very tense and so well made it never feels totally scripted. From award winning direction by Paul Greengrass, who taps into the humanity of Hollywood perfectly with his leading players, this is a brave and engrossing tale of survival and hope.

This story grips you with a steady build-up of events, from the nail-biting opening to the heart-wrenching finale...




'Captain Phillips' is a Columbia Pictures production


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