Captain Phillips is among the most topical films of the year, focusing upon the highly topical issue of Somali Pirate attacks. However the film neatly side-steps the temptation to make an overtly negative portrayal of the pirates themselves. Instead it adopts a far more astute approach of portraying them as human beings and demonstrating their motivations.
Tom Hanks gives a great performance as the eponymous Captain Phillips. From the opening scenes of Phillips leaving his wife behind, there’s a tingling sense of unease that truly crystallises once the hijacking is under-way. At once Phillips’s control is shattered and replaced by the confident swagger of Barkhad Abdi as the pirate Captain Muse.
The characters in general are well developed, especially the pirates. Enough credit cannot be given for actually fleshing them out instead of having them as generic guns for hire. The film ramps up in the final third as Navy Seals swirl and it converts from stand-off to full
Paul Greengrass’s shaky camera-work adds a sense of realism, but the hand-held effect is at times jarring and verges on headache-inducing. It may be his signature style, but in this instance the realism was almost overshadowed by how illness-inducing it was. Overall, Captain Phillips was a commendably directed and wonderful film. Admirably bereft of the over the top flag waving that would have been present were it directed by someone like Michael Bay, Captain Phillips struck the right tone between the one-sided Western image of tragedy and also humanizing the pirates.