Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Captain on the Rocks

Captain Phillips
Director: Paul Greengrass
Cast: Tom Hanks, Catherine Keener, Barkhad Abdi
Released: October 11, 2013
Viewed in theaters: November 3, 2013

Much like he did with United 93, Paul Greengrass cast mostly unknowns in his latest movie based on a true event with the exception of Tom Hanks who I'm sure you have heard of! The capturing of Richard Phillips onboard a huge cargo ship happened in April 2009, but despite being old enough to remember this, I don't recall this story at all and wasn't even aware of it until I heard about the movie and how that was based on a true story.

It is an interesting story and I can see why it was made into a film. I wasn't aware that Paul Greengrass had directed it until his name came up at the end credits and I think to myself, Of course, I should have known. This is a movie that he would direct.

The movie begins with Captain Phillips (portrayed by Tom Hanks) and his wife (Catherine Keener) on their way to the airport so Phillips can fly to Oman where from there, he, along with a crew, will navigate a large cargo ship called the Maersk Alabama to deliver food to the nations of Somalia, Kenya, and Uganda. Their route sends them to Djibouti from Oman and then to Mombassa, Kenya, which they have to sail along the Somali coast where pirate activity is so heavy that Phillips gets an e-mail warning about it and has drills to prepare his crew in case they should ever have a run-in with pirates.

On the sonar, he notices two small blips gradually getting closer to the Maersk Alabama and with binoculars, sees that they are two skiffs each with four Somalian pirates on each one. He fibs to the pirates when he gets on his radio and tells them that the Navy (or whoever it is that patrols the oceans) will be arriving in five minutes. Only one skiff calls him on his bluff while the other changes course. The skiff that is still coming after them breaks down and Phillips and his crew are safe...for now.

Phillips has a conversation with his crew about the incident. Their boat is not armed so if they are captured by pirates, they have no fire power to scare them away. Many of his crew want to take a detour to get out of the heavy pirate activity which would mean not reaching their destination. Phillips tells them they have a job to do and that's what they're to do and if anybody wants to leave, they can. I can see the points of both sides. It does seem pretty ridiculous to risk your life in an area of the world that's known for its piracy when your ship isn't even armed (that has since changed and firing warning shots help scare pirates off), but Phillips was right saying they have an obligation to deliver the food to Mombassa and this is what they signed up for.

The next day, four of the pirates are back, led by Muse (played by Somalian-born, Minnesota-raised Barkhad Abdi). They get a lot closer to the Alabama than the previous day and water hoses spaced all around the boat are activated to keep the pirates away, but one is broken and despite one crew member desperately trying to fix it, the pirates make their way to that part of the boat and hook their ladder onto it so they can climb up. It is crazy to think that four men in one small boat can overpower a crew that outnumbers them in a boat that is 508 feet and 6 inches long (footnote, Wikipedia).

As he sees the pirates boarding the ship, Tom Hanks' expression is of pure fear and he does a brilliant job of portraying it. Expect a few acting nominations on the way for him in the near future. Phillips tells his crew to hide in the engine room and not to come out no matter what. He and a couple other crew members are in the control area where they steer that boat. The pirates find them and asks Phillips where the rest of his crew is and he replies with, "I don't know!" He tells the pirates that he will help them search the boat and suggests they start from top to bottom since the engine room is at the bottom and will give the crew members plenty of time to shut the power off so they will be hidden.

There is an intense scene where one of the pirates has a gun pointed at the head of one of Phillips' crew member when he won't tell them where the rest of the crew is, but no blood is least not for awhile.

After a standoff between the pirates and the crew members, Phillips offers them the $30,000 in their vault and the lifeboat on the Alabama if they just leave them alone, but after he is explaining how to work the lifeboat, they won't let him leave and take off with him in it and the movie continues on to show us how he is eventually rescued by the Navy Seals.

Something interesting that Greengrass does is he never cuts back to Keener at home worrying about her husband who is in peril. In fact, the only time we see her is at the very beginning.

The ending of the movie is very effective and another great scene from Hanks. He has an interesting accent as the real Captain Phillips from Massachusetts. It was a bit distracting at times because he sounds a lot like Mayor Quimby from The Simpsons!

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