Review: ‘Captain Phillips’ an eye-opening thriller


From the true experiences of 2009, Captain Phillips comes to life on screen in the film “Captain Philips,” directed by Oscar nominee Paul Greengrass, which was released on Oct. 11.

As the movie opens, a shot of a picture perfect house comes into view where Phillips  (Tom Hanks) can be seen packing for his job as  merchant marine captain of an American cargo liner. He packs like he has done it a thousand times, his forehead creased with lines as he contemplates his upcoming journey around the horn of Africa to deliver food. He slips a few papers and a picture of his family into a bag which shows his connection to his family and softens the business-like mood. The mood stays present as Phillips and his wife drive to the airport discussing their worries about their kids in the economically bleak world. Phillips can be seen as a straightforward family man who, like anyone else, is worried for his family.

The way the movie is shot is raw and interesting. It seems as if you are watching a documentary with the handheld camera work and shots that run urgently together.

The movie takes an emotional twist as the setting switches to the poverty-stricken land of Somalia. In the background, toppling huts and dirty children playing in the dirt can be seen. The camera artfully scans the dusty landscape, zooming in on men with assault rifles recruiting the local fishermen for a hijack expedition.

The movie moves quickly with the next scene showing  Phillips on the ship running safety drills. Just as the drill ends, two quickly approaching dots appear on the radar. The suspense of the movie starts to take an incline as two skiffs appear on the horizon carrying several bands of pirates. The crew jumps into action as the drill becomes a real situation. Shockingly, the vessel is carrying no weapons or ways to defend itself except for high pressure hoses mounted around the ship. Phillips reacts quickly, pretending he’s calling for back-up from an armed helicopter. Panicked, one of the  skiffs turns around but the other persists on. Phillips orders the ship into full speeds and soon they lose the persistent skiff. The next day the crew is tense with the chance of the skiffs returning looming  over them. Soon their worst fear becomes reality as the a skiff quickly catches up to the ship. Easily maneuvering around the spray of the hoses they hook a rusty latter on the side of the boat and scamper up. The men breeze past the locked gates and doors, shooting them open with assault rifles.

The director deliberately made sure the Somali actors didn’t meet the rest of the cast until the first shot that was filmed. This way, the uneasiness the actors felt was real. It added that extra dimension to the movie, making the audience feel like you could really connect to the actors since the audience was seeing the pirates for the first time too. Phillips quickly tells the other members of the crew to hide and braces himself for the worse. The pirates enter the control deck snarling and swinging their guns around.The pirates demand money, lots of money. Phillip pleads with them to leave, telling them they’ll give them the $30,000 stored in their safe. They refuse and demand for the rest of the crew. The pirates plan to sail the vessel to Africa so they can reap the benefits and hold it hostage until the money is received.

The rest of the film shows Philips epic struggle with the pirates and how by sheer force he survives. At the end Philip’s raw courage and mental shock can be seen though Hank’s natural acting. The movie is done excellently and gives an eye opening glimpse into some of today’s issues.