Four month ago I posted an entry on this website called ‘The Magic of Tom Hanks‘. The article discussed the actor’s baffling screen diversity and applauded Hanks for his ability to remain a household name and yet never be typecast. Having played some of cinema’s most memorable characters, from Mr. Gump to Captain Miller, Hanks could have easily become trapped in some of his previous roles; but somehow he has broken free of each one in turn. This month he returns to our screens in a role that will surely become as well known and remembered as his parts in Philadelphia and Castaway. Hanks plays Captain Phillips in Paul Greengrass’ latest cinematic triumph of the same name. Based on the real experiences of a hijacked cargo ship’s captain and his crew, Captain Phillips will take you on an exhausting, intense but marvellous journey. This two and a quarter hour long film draws you deeper and deeper into the action, depicting the struggles of a captain who tries to honourably protect his ship and its crew. It drew me so far in that I was shocked to notice that the film had lasted longer than ninety minutes. Captain Phillips demonstrates the possibly feats achievable when you combine a moving story with an acting legend and place both in the palms of a director who knows exactly what to do with them. I feared that this film would be overly patriotic and would stumble into sickly, predictable territory; I was deeply mistaken.
The film is brutal in many parts; boldly portraying the suffering experienced by different individuals in this traumatic situation. Although it is the captain that we follow and root for, we are also given insight into the lives and backgrounds of the pirates. It is ultimately a film about injustice, in more ways than you may initially think. Globalisation and greediness appear to be the true enemies here, along with the Somali pirates who’s actions we do not condone but begin to slightly understand. Greengrass encourages us as an audience to search for deeper meaning and reasoning within the text. We see the wrong doings of the hijackers but also the wrong doing that has lead to the hijacking itself. There is no denying that Paul Greengrass is a gifted storyteller. His decision to focus mainly on the hijacking and leave out the experiences of the crew’s families and the media allows Captain Phillips to dodge a Hollywood cliché. The pacing of Captain Phillips is what truly causes the film to excel. As well as Hanks giving one of the most moving and complex performances of his career, Barkhad Abdi also gives a haunting performance as the leader of the Somali pirates. Abdi was employed as a chauffeur before being cast in Captain Phillips and had no acting knowledge or experience prior to working on this film, a fact that I find dumbfounding. At the risk of giving too much away, it is crucial to mention that this film is worth seeing for its finally minutes alone. Hanks reinstates his on-screen force and Greengrass navigates the film to an exquisite, harrowing and tear-jerking end. Human instinct and human nature are continually placed under the microscope in Captain Phillips. It is not only a thrilling and enjoyable journey but a superb exploration into man’s coping mechanisms when placed in grave danger and conflict.
Thanks for reading and let’s all keep supporting our beloved film industry.