An unarmed container ship braving the pirate-infested waters off the coast of Somalia. A crew of bellyaching contract workers with absolutely no military experience. One by-the-numbers, no-nonsense captain who takes his work very seriously. And four volatile Somali hostiles high on herbal stimulants, hungry for a huge paycheck. This is how director Paul Greengrass sets up one of this year?s most exciting action thrillers, Captain Phillips. Known for his Jason Bourne films, Greengrass is adept at creating high-octane suspense even in the most unlikely locales. Who knew all that water could be so exciting?
Based on the non-fiction book, ?A Captain?s Duty : Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs And Dangerous Days At Sea? penned by the titular captain with Stephan Talty, the film retells the story of how merchant mariner Captain Richard Phillips was taken hostage by four Somali pirates in the Maersk Alabama hijacking?in 2009.? Led by the odd and peculiar Abduwali Muse,?the tenacious band of four made two attempts at taking the ship, succeeding in boarding the Alabama on the second try. Taut and tense, this hostile takeover created the quiet, understated yet utterly suspenseful atmosphere felt throughout the entire film.
Lauded for his overall performance in the movie, Tom Hanks plays Phillips dutifully for the most part but truly shows unmatched greatness in probably the last ten minutes. Those final few scenes are probably the best dramatic work he has ever done in his entire career. Now whether that is enough to win him his third Oscar, only time will tell. The standout performance though belongs to Barkhad Abdi, portraying Muse. His sheer raw authenticity provided the perfect foil to Hanks? endearing everyman quality. There is a menacing stillness in the performance that is quite disconcerting. Oftentimes, a wordless look or a gesture from him speaks countless volumes. And a knowing smirk or smile betrays the words he actually speaks. There is a lot to read in this performance. Which is a testament to Abdi?s natural talent. Expect his name to be tossed around during awards season.
Aside from the Best Picture nod, Captain Phillips could earn recognition for Director, Actor, Supporting Actor, Adapted Screenplay and possibly Film Editing. With flashier, splashier contenders in the mix though, the film could very well be drowned out. It has been quite some time since its first release and its buzz has started to fade. Perhaps during the campaign period, they could reignite some of its initial flame. Doesn?t hurt to try. But it may have to content itself with being merely a contender. But then again, that?s just my opinion. 🙂