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Captain Phillips

Captain Phillips
Release date: October 18, 2013 (India)
Directed by: Paul Greengrass
Cast: Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi, Michael Chernus, David Warshofsky, Chris Mulkey, Mohamed Ali, Issak Farah Samatar, Omar Berdouni

This Captain Phillips review was supposed to be completed last week, but Somalian pirates kidnapped me! Okay, no, they didn’t. I slacked off, got into other commitments and couldn’t get back to typing it.

Captain Phillips is based upon the book, A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs, and Dangerous Days at Sea (2010), by Richard Phillips with Stephan Talty. It’s a retelling of events that took place on one of Captain Richard Phillips’ voyages through the African waters. As the posters blaringly proclaim, it’s a biopic.

The film starts off with Phillips (Tom Hanks) being portrayed as a thorough family-man. Which is perhaps the only motivation for his subsequent conquests. He takes command of the MV Maersk Alabama at a port in Oman, with orders to sail its cargo through the Gulf of Aden to Mombasa. He keeps writing emails to his wife from the ship, and on a watery morning he decides to order for a security drill to see if his fat, unfit crewmen can wear off the looming Somalian pirates.

The drill turns out to be a real life situation soon, as Phillips spots the two approaching skiffs. He fends off them at first, managing to outrun them. The next morning, a more powerful boat resumes on the hijacking mission, under Abduwali Muse (Barkhad Abdi) This time there’s no escaping for the American ship, the Somalians finally capture them and hope for a big ransom. The on-board crew work it smartly with their captain and get hold of Muse, but they are pirates, and as senior crew member John Cronan (Chris Mulkey) says, they aren’t the navy. The pirates just take away Phillips in a lifeboat and now that’s their trump card.

From there on, the US government orders for a safe recovery of the captain and the skinny Muse becomes the authoritative captain of the lifeboat who’s trying to gain as much leeway as possible with the Americans for the release of their captive. The Seals come, they go, they arrive again, they negotiate some and some more. Through all of this, there’s Phillips with his scrappy survival and no inspiration whatsoever for the viewer to cheer for him, except that he’s the protagonist. He’s benevolent yet there’s something amiss about him.

No subtext has been given to the attackers, but there’s not much to bear on the constant haggling and badgering between the two sides either. The film is exciting, from a closure standpoint. I was hooked only for him to get out. Captain Phillips isn’t enjoyable, and it’s not even meant to be. The absence of any kind of elicitation is more concerning than the survival story. Hanks and Abdi are both very strong in their parts. Issak Farah Samatar as the hotheaded Hufan proves to be good foil to the composed Muse.

The story’s interesting, it even compels you to be at the edge of your seat but it’s just a LITTLE superficial for me.

P.S. The last scene with Hanks’ bawling is extremely brilliant.

My rating: *** (3 out of 5)

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