Paul Greengrass takes his docudrama toolkit to this true-life tale of an American freightship captain’s run in with a band of Somali pirates. A gripping globalisation allegory told through the microcosm of two sparring men.
Tom Hanks plays the beleaguered Richard Phillips, captain of the Maersk Alabama for its journey from Oman to Mombasa. Whilst in International waters off the coast of Somalia, the container ship is boarded by four pirates – led by Abdulawi Muse (Barkhad Abdi) – and a 48-hour showdown ensues.
Bred on his early career documenting conflict hot spots, Greengrass has gained a knack for leaving his audience on unsure footing. He shot the majority of this film on open water, only adding to that uncertainty. The vastness of the Alabama and the surrounding Indian Ocean give the conflict a tremendous sense of isolation too. It distils it somehow. Before the action we see Muse and his crew with scarcely any options for work. He later tells Phillips he would have been a fisherman had America not fished the waters bare. It’s clear what the director is getting at.
Greengrass chose to cast Somalis in their respective rolls and Abdi is strong as the fierce and desperate Muse. Opposite him, Hanks looks to finally be growing comfortable in his years and will, in all likelihood, pick up an Oscar nod in January. His director should too. His remarkable senses for tension, pace and realism are here for all to see and Hans Zimmer drives it all home with another muscular score
Captain Phillips | Directed by Paul Greengrass (USA, 2013) with Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi. Starts November 7