Captain Phillips is a movie based off of a true story, very very loosely. It has been years since I looked into the actual story, and I have no real desire to do so again. I do remember the actual Captain Phillips being more of a coward, but given the situation, I can't really blame him for that. A quick google brings up a few stories to this point. The crew being outraged at how big of a lie it is, the Seals team saying the same thing about their portrayal. They even twist some of the factual details such as Phillips supposedly getting a e-mail saying he was to close to shore and needed to change his Route. In the movie it is simply a warning about increased Pirate attacks, though it does allege to the fact that he is sailing to far out earlier on. So why do I bring all this up? It is not to detour you from seeing the film, but more so to simply give you some insight into it. This movie is Nominated for a Oscar for Best Picture, and Barkhad Abdi is up for best supporting actor....he is the main pirate if you are unfamiliar like I was. So for those of you that followed the story when it happened, who may be turned off because of that knowledge, this section was for you. Don't let that be a reason not to see this movie. While changing the facts, and trying to portray Phillips as something he was not is wrong, if you can get past it, there is something honestly quite Fantastic here.
The story follows....well Captain Phillips as his ship is attacked and taken over by Somali pirates. We see him try and use the in place procedures, and we see the military pretty much tell him to piss off. The actual Boarding scene is one of the more tense moments in the film, even though you already know what will happen. One thing I really liked was that the movie did not waste to much time on the set up for this though. Given its 2 hour plus run time, I honestly expected a lot of build up to that moment, and a lot of boredom. We are introduced to Phillips and his wife, we get a short talk about his family to make us care, and then we meet the crew. After that we learn about the pirates, and get some insight into how they operate, and then the movie just takes off running. From the time they set off after the boat, to the time everything in finally resolved, we rarely get a moment to rest. The tension is high, and along with all the suspense, the movie never got boring. While you don't really get much time with the crew, they have a few stand out roles, and you really do quickly come to care about them. Maybe that is why I felt one of the main components of the film fell flat for me. The movie isn't just about Phillips, the Somali's also have a story to tell. And while the movie did a great job of portraying them as villains, it also did a decent job at making them seem like the reluctant antagonist. I felt like it was trying to get me to like a few of them, and it did this by making it seem as if they were forced into this way of life. There is even a scene where the main pirate is discussing this with Phillips. However given the situation, and what was happening, I had trouble caring about them. Maybe it is because I am not in their situation, but I could not come to terms with that lifestyle not being a choice. And every time the crew or somebody else manage to get some offense in, it just made me happy. I never was sad to see harm come to the pirates, though I think I was supposed to.
The story, while simple, works so well though mainly because of the actors. Chances are you like Tom Hanks, honestly how can you not? And he does fantastic with this role. Seeing him react to everything, and his ability to portray all the emotions that would come along in that situation, really drags you into the film. He never seems to miss a step, and paired with a well written script, he makes the movie. Barkhad Abdi plays Muse, the Captain of the Somali pirates. He was creepy, and had a eerie quality about him. While not a big guy, he was able to carry a role of fear quite well. I can see why he is up for a award, and frankly I think he deserves it. There are other roles in the film, but most of them do not get a lot of attention. A few notable people would be Michael Chernus as Phillips second in command. And Fayal Ahmed as Najee, another pirate. Chernus got to be heroic in his own way, and created some of the early on drama in the movie. While Ahmed played the crazy and just plain evil pirate who had you worried maybe they will just kill everybody.
Final thoughts, given the source material I can see why they choose to go a different route with the movie. Without spoiling anything, it honestly was one of the better movies I have seen in a long time. Everything was done so well, and the actors really pulled it all together. There are moments when you find yourself holding your breath, and you never quite feel certain about how its all going to end. Looking back on it, it seems like such a simple movie, and you wonder how it filled as much time as it did. But in the moment you don't notice that. If you haven't seen it yet, give it a try. It is at redbox now, so you are only losing $1.27 if you don't care for it. If you like suspense though, and don't mind some drama, I think you will enjoy this one.