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Captain Phillips
Crime, Drama, Thriller, Action, Adventure, Biography
IMDB rating:
Paul Greengrass
Tom Hanks as Captain Richard Phillips
Faysal Ahmed as Najee
Mahat M. Ali as Elmi
Mohamed Ali as Asad
Barkhad Abdi as Muse
Michael Chernus as Shane Murphy
David Warshofsky as Mike Perry
Yul Vazquez as Captain Frank Castellano
Chris Mulkey as John Cronan
Corey Johnson as Ken Quinn
Catherine Keener as Andrea Phillips
Max Martini as SEAL Commander
Storyline: Captain Phillips is a multi-layered examination of the 2009 hijacking of the U.S. container ship Maersk Alabama by a crew of Somali pirates. It is - through director Paul Greengrass's distinctive lens - simultaneously a pulse-pounding thriller, and a complex portrait of the myriad effects of globalization. The film focuses on the relationship between the Alabama's commanding officer, Captain Richard Phillips (two time Academy Awardยฎ-winner Tom Hanks), and the Somali pirate captain, Muse (Barkhad Abdi), who takes him hostage. Phillips and Muse are set on an unstoppable collision course when Muse and his crew target Phillips' unarmed ship; in the ensuing standoff, 145 miles off the Somali coast, both men will find themselves at the mercy of forces beyond their control.
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Tom Hanks at his best in a terrifyingly realistic true story.
Let me begin by saying that Captain Phillips, as an action film, turned out to be much more than I had initially anticipated. I was expecting half drama / half moderate action film with likely a good dash of political hopscotch. It's probably a good thing then, that I knew next to nothing about the actual story, because I love a good surprise. Captain Phillips is two hours of absolutely intense and absolutely uncompromising physical and psychological anxiety. At the end of it, I literally had to sit for a minute and just breathe, because this story gripped me by the throat like few films in recent memory have.

For those still unfamiliar with the story – this is a retelling of a historical event; the first US cargo ship in 200 years to be hijacked by pirates. During which, its captain Richard Phillips is taken hostage by the pirates, on his own lifeboat no less.

I got the sense that, somewhere in between the lines it was the director's intention to perhaps create an opening for a different story to be told: that of the Somali pirates, and why they do what they do. We are told that they are fishermen, and sheer poverty has driven them to these desperate acts. However, I don't know for sure if I'm supposed to feel any sympathy for these men, if I was supposed to 'understand' their motives – if this was Paul Greengrass' intention, it didn't work. Because no matter which way you swing it, these pirates are the bad guys and that's as clear as day. No degree of poverty or despair should be held as an excuse for such gruesome acts. Then again, if this was at all the point, I'm glad it wasn't hammered down in any way. It was merely a thought, and one conveyed subtly enough for anyone to make up their own mind about this issue.

What is clear here, is that these men (only four of them, surprisingly) committed a terrible crime. Not even so much the piracy itself, but the kidnapping and abuse of one individual. This individual is played by Tom Hanks, and he delivers one of his most eloquent and restrained performances to date. Here is a man, a captain of a large cargo ship, who is usually very much in control of his life and a clearheaded leader of his crew – but who, in the heat of reality, is just as human as any of us and simply does the best he can, even when (in spite of overwhelming protocol) one simply doesn't know what to do. Because protocol doesn't apply to the emotions that take control of both the captain and his captors, when they face a situation none of them anticipated. This is immediately one if my favourite performances by Tom Hanks, whose strength here lies mostly in the quiet moments in between all the chaos surrounding him. You can tell that he never stops thinking, never stops analyzing his situation, no matter what the pirates do to intimidate him. He conveys it all in the eyes – all the fear and anxiety, while constantly staying calm and collected, trying to talk to his captors, never losing his head. Even when fighting for his life, there is an assertive calmness that comes across so strongly that you can do nothing but admire this man. Hanks' performance is so convincing, it almost doesn't look like acting anymore... and that's a huge compliment.

The same goes for the other actors, especially the men playing the Somali pirates. Before being cast for this film, none of them had any acting experience, which makes their performances all the more impressive. Then, it also makes one wonder how much of a compliment it actually is when a director literally picks you off the street because apparently he thinks that you're perfectly fit for the part of a menacing pirate, but that's food for another discussion, another time... In any case, he was right about them. These men ARE absolutely convincing and authentic. Especially the leader of the gang, played by Barkhad Abdi, is right on the money. He needs nothing more than the look in his eyes to convince you that you're right to feel absolutely terrified of him.

From a technical standpoint, Captain Phillips is very well made. My only grievance is Greengrass' typical trademark: the shaky handy-cam. Here and there it's almost enough to make you seasick, and I really wish he would ease up on this gimmick, because although it adds to the feeling of suspense and chaos, that doesn't weigh up to the headache it causes. Steady-cam was invented for a reason, mister director. Use it. Still, the other qualities of the film are easily strong enough to make up for this one point of critique. The pacing is excellent, it grips you like a pitbull and never lets go until the credits roll in. Colouring and lighting effects are perfectly used for an incredibly realistic feel and claustrophobic atmosphere. Everything feels very real and absolutely no sentimental plot devices are exploited here. Top-notch screen writing.

I can do nothing other than strongly recommend this film. It is very intense and at times very violent, and definitely one of the best films in its genre. And if this doesn't convince you, see it for one of Tom Hanks' best performances of his career.
I'm just a cook...
Cinema has come a long way since Under Siege. The titular hero of this story is no expert in hand-to-hand or weapons and tactics. He's definitely not a cook.

Tom Hanks is Richard Phillips, captain of the Alabama cargo ship, en route to Mombasa via Somali no-man's water. Muse (impressive newcomer Barkhad Abdi) arrives with a handpicked crew of pirates, and they board the Alabama. Nail-biting tension and hostage-taking will follow. It's best that one goes into the film knowing no more.

Paul Greengrass is the best director working today in the authentic documentary aesthetic. He knows that the drama is in the detail. Captain Phillips' most thrilling moments are when Greengrass is most exacting and pedantic about characters' relative positions within the environment. That sounds kind of formal, but then Greengrass's shaky-cam does veil an essential precision. He focuses on the immediate situation, leaving us the viewers to picture it in the wider political context.

As with Kathryn Bigelow, Greengrass's anti-polemical style is occasionally a curse but mostly a blessing. The action may occur on the surface, but there's depth beneath the objectivity – perhaps best encapsulated in the image of three mighty US warships surrounding a tiny craft in international waters.

The implicit themes are globalisation and imperialism. The opportunism of the pirates is met with a defence based on an escalating chain of command. It's chaos versus structure; improvisation versus meticulous contingency planning. Money is nothing without an entrenched system to contain it and protect it. Sorry, Africa – we'll throw food parcels in your direction but we won't help you build long-term infrastructure plans, and you sure as hell can't step on "our" turf.

When the pirates are first approaching the Alabama, Muse presents his gang as seaborne law enforcers, and I couldn't help thinking of the United States' assumed position as "world police"...

More than anything, Captain Phillips reminds us of the power of Hanks and Greengrass, two servants of cinema at the absolute top of their game, and that should be recommendation enough. It's worth paying to see – please don't pirate it!
Dramatization of real Somali pirates hijacking the first American ship in 200 years.
This is based on real events just a few years ago. Tom Hanks is Captain Richard Phillips, who travels to the middle east to take a fully-loaded cargo ship to an African port. They must pass through international waters off the Somali coast, they are aware of the inherent danger, they are prepared, they have drills, they feel they can ward off any pirate hijacking attempt.

But as they get going radar picks up a couple of boats headed in their direction. They can't be sure, but they suspect a hijacking attempt, they secure the ship, they contact international authorities.

The main pirate is played by Barkhad Abdi as Muse. He has three others, and they are determined to get this ship. Their goal is to capture it and the crew and then hold it for ransom. They allude to the insurance man coming with bags of money, millions of dollars.

The movie is extremely well made, the actors are very authentic in their roles. Hanks of course turns in his usual award-worthy performance, it remains to be seen if he in fact will win any.

Quite a good, exciting, gripping movie.

SPOILERS: As we know from the news Muse was captured as the four pirates tried using the rather slow cargo ship's escape pod to get to Somalia, with Cpt Phillips as a hostage. American military ships, helicopters, and Navy Seals showed up, Muse ended up in captivity, the other 3 pirates were killed by sharpshooters, through the escape pod's windows, and Cpt Phillips was rescued relatively unharmed, just bruised and in shock from his near brush with death. Muse was brought to the USA, tried, convicted, and now is in prison. After about a year Cpt Phillips returned to the sea.
Fine docu-drama but not much more
I'm a big fan of Paul Greengrass, but it seems that in Captain Phillips he was trying too hard not to take sides, having perhaps taken too much criticism for the partisanship of his brilliant films Bloody Sunday and Green Zone. It's not that I felt this new film desperately needed to make a political statement. It's just that it fails to make any statement at all. Or even to provide basic context for the events it depicts.

The production is certainly impeccable. The shipboard settings, the procedures, and Tom Hanks' character are so totally believable that it's easy to forget you're not watching a documentary. (*Mild spoilers*...) Hanks' initial efforts to safeguard his crew, and to calm the pirates, are clever and engrossing. But at some point, that impetus evaporates, and we're left with a very realistic, very tense situation in which the lead character no longer plays any part other than that of helpless victim. Things unwind like clockwork, with no particular twists or surprises. That may be how it happened, but it's not how to make a great action film.

I did appreciate Greengrass' effort to humanize the pirates. (If there's an Oscar going for this film, it belongs to Barkhad Abdi, for his nuanced performance as the pirate leader.) But the film stops short of any real exploration of the social or political pressures behind the incident it depicts. It fails to comment on the astounding spectacle of multiple billion-dollar navy ships and SEAL teams doing battle with four guys in a dinghy. It doesn't even address the obvious question of why a valuable merchant ship, registered in the most gun-happy country on Earth, and traveling through known pirate waters, doesn't have a weapons locker, or a security guard, or a single personal sidearm.

Tom Hanks is excellent as always, but this is not an Oscar-worthy *role*. Hanks plays on just two notes: first restrained and competent, then shifting quite abruptly to broken and terrified. This seems very realistic, and it's perfectly played. But it's just not that interesting. The script does little to analyze Phillips' eventual breakdown; it merely notes it as one more part of the scenario.

Bottom line, I enjoyed watching Captain Phillips, and I greatly admired the technique of both Greengrass and Hanks. But I didn't find the film particularly insightful, memorable or - considering the lack of character development or plot - exciting. It stands up well enough as a simple document of an actual event, but fails to tell me why that event might have been important enough to merit a big-budget movie treatment.
well done - but propaganda like
The film is actually well done. Quite Thrilling. Characters are well played and the story is based on real facts. The storyline is a bit simple but well organized:

First a prequel: You get background information about the two main characters, a Somali pirate and a cargo ship captain. Both "getting to work" an are boarding their ships. First Chapter: Cargo ship is running. Some security checks are made. Everithing is getting more and more exciting. Then a first and a second showdown, where the pirates are trying to enter the ship. Second Chapter: About what is going on after the boarding of the pirates. A nice "hide-and-seek" play between both party's. With a showdown at the end ones more. Third Chapter: Hostage drama on a lifeboat. A good and a bad Somali guy. US Army and Navy Seals involvement and final showdown.

If you do not care about any message the Films is transmitting, everything works fine. But if you do, the film appears to you like just one more of these unacceptable American propaganda movies. The good guys are winning, the navy seals are the heroes. "Justice" is given. Some small hints about the situation of Somali guys to reassure the good intentions of the director: in one or two sentences it is stated that fishing-crawlers are making everybody jobless in Somalya. Thats all. The pain and problems of Somalian populations, the involvement of US foreign policy in "failed state" areas like Somalia. The enormous impact of US (and other rich countries) fish-crawlers for the population and the wast problematic (horn of Africa is one of these wast-disposal sites). All these kind of scandalous stuff is not really treated. The image of Africans is something like a unscrupulous self destroying, non-rational horde with a touch of pity. But America is performing his world-police-job with accuracy. Until the last shot.... in my opinion all this smells quite Stereotyped and propaganda like.

I'm happy to see that filmmakers from the southern hemisphere are getting more and more involved in these kind of topics. "Timbuktu" is a good example. Even if Timbuktu lacks a bit the suspense of a Hollywood movie....
Interesting story but slightly boring.
While I did like this movie I thought it wasn't very consistent. There were moments when I was bored and moments when the story was heightened with suspense. Obviously you can't go changing the boring moments of a true story but maybe they could have condensed the movie down to an hour and a half. The story would have been told without stretching it out for no apparent reason.

Aside from the storyline the actors were really good. You expect that from Tom Hanks but the hijackers were the ones who really stole the show for me. They were very realistic and believable. They provided most of the entertainment in this movie and created a lot of drama.

This is a movie that everybody should watch once in their life but I still feel that it could have been better.
Thrilling and Gripping
Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Supremacy fame) has directed two films on important historic events, "Bloody Sunday" and "United 93." "Captain Phillips" is also based on a real story (a kind of story which you would likely read in Reader's Digest under drama in real life section) where an American cargo ship is hijacked by Somali pirates and the captain is held hostage.

The film on a whole captures the action sequences familiar from regular Hollywood movies and is overlong, which somewhat loses the impact of the film. Besides, the film somewhat lacks the novelty of 'United 93" in filming the events or narrating the story and isn't very different from the regular movies. Despite the over length and the familiar premises of action, the film is thrilling, gripping, and exhausting. Tom Hanks as usual makes a remarkable performance through his wit trying to deal with the pirates and save his crew. In the climax, he just excels and makes you numb. I'm a little shaky about the film's or director's chances of getting an Oscar as story wise, the film is doesn't go beyond normal; but Tom Hanks surely is a deserving nominee for best actor this year. Had the film been trimmed a bit, the film would have been a very tight thriller of the year. On a whole, I liked the film and I'm sure you would find it entertaining.

Rating: 2.5 stars out of 4
A Must-Watch Thriller
Not too many movies strike a chord with me, make me think and reflect upon the movie for days or weeks after, or even force me to re-watch the movie in the same way that this movie did. "Captain Phillips" is an incredible movie with talented actors and a plot so thrilling that I was literally shaking at times during the film. The suspense that heightened as the movie progressed certainly contributed to the success of this movie and the effect it leaves on the audience.

Tom Hanks once again delivered an exceptional performance as the captain of the ship. I thought his performance particularly excelled at times when the thrill was extremely high, but also in the denouement of the movie, when he was being looked after by a doctor. I would like to name out the actors who played the role of the Somalian pirates, as they all deserve a standing ovation for their contributions to this incredible production: Barkhad Abdi, Barkhad Abdirahman, Faysal Ahmed, and Mahat M. Ali. Despite "Captain Phillips" being the first movie they ever played in, these four actors delivered mind-blowing performances. Surprisingly, they knew each other very well before the movie as friends in Minneapolis, and I am really happy that they had the opportunity to co-star with each other in this movie. I do not think that anyone else would have been able to play the role that they pulled off magnificently. And to Barkhad Abdi, wherever you go from now on, you will always be the captain.

What I really loved about this movie was the reflection of reality, as this was a story told by the real Captain Phillips. I feel comfortable watching a movie and knowing that what I see on screen is similar to the actual events. With that in mind, when I reflect on the movie, I am not only reflecting on what I saw on screen, but also on the real-life events. I felt that in the film, the Somalian pirates had a firm goal, which was the reason they decided to invade the ship in the first place. Throughout the film, I saw evidence of the existence of a warm heart that the pirates possessed (it was clearer in some than in others),and they were not as mean as their mission would suggest. However, whenever their goal of acquiring millions of dollars was threatened, they would react strongly.

I am definitely surprised that this movie did not take home an Oscar this year, but not surprised at all that it was nominated for 6 Oscars and not surprised that Barkhad Abdi took home a BAFTA award either. I saw this movie twice, the second time just couple days later, and I even liked it more the second time than I did the first. I would highly recommend this movie. A must-watch thriller bound to stir emotions!
A HUGE letdown
How in the world is that rated so highly? This is nothing more than manufactured Hollywood BS! The tension that everybody raved about rarely happens. There are brief moments of tension, but nothing is sustained. It all felt phony. Even when Phillips is captured, there isn't much suspense. It's all done in routine fashion. After it was over my initial reaction was "That's it?!" I felt severely cheated. For a movie that's over two hours long, nothing really garnered my interest. I'm a big fan of Hanks, but his performance isn't anything special. As a matter of fact, he overacted. His final scene is embarrassingly overacted. As much as I like Hanks, this isn't one of his best performances. Barkhad Abdi is solid in his role.

This movie left me feeling cold. Many will probably scratch their heads reading this review. I just think it's more Hollywood drivel that didn't live up to the hype

a mainstream production from the Hollywood assembly line
A Hollywood-produced, politically correct, big studio vehicle, helmed by a world-class action artisan Paul Greengrass, stars the most revered actor of his generation, Tom Hanks as the titular captain, whose screen image is a paragon of an orthodox ordinary Joe alike American hero, in this seafaring hijack inspired by a true event in 2009 at Somali waters. It is a retaliation of the vicious circle from the poverty-stricken to the hegemony which sardonically offers them the alms and simultaneously capitalizes on their natural resources and weaponry merchandising, so it is not easy to hold a phlegmatic perspective to watch the man-made terror without deploring the sad truth how things have ended up like this, for sure we should inveigh against the piracy felony, all the same we should also see through the phenomena and ferret out the nitty-gritty which induces the atrocious tragedies. We have both parties to blame and need a soul-searching examination on our own conscience.

Greengrass adopts an engaging procedure to re-enact the white-knuckle happening of how the ship is seized by four Somali pirates (leading by a scrawny Muse, played by the first-time actor, now Oscar-nominee Abdi), parallels the narrative from both sides, playing mind games and a hide-and-seek inside the vessel, this is the first half, culminated with the pirates take captain Phillips as the hostage in a lifeboat, floating back the Somali. Apparently from the hindsight, it is a preventable incident, considering it is a US cargo ship, no one on board is equipped with any firearms at all? From a gun frenzy country where campus shooting is rampant, it is quite implausible, but sometimes the truth is as simple as that, the pirates' boarding process is rough and ready, clearly the affluent corporate which owns the ship skimps on its defense system, although they are fully aware of the potential peril could happen anytime. Otherwise, there would be no big deal to defeat four sea marauders (one is barely a child) even they're equipped with AK-18.

Anyway, the second half, Captain Phillips is held captive within a lifeboat with the pirates on the billowy sea, since then, the film heavily hinges on Hank's performance to emanate the brewing desperation during the so-called "negotiation" between US rescue team (SEAL, frogmen are all standby) and the cornered pirates four. It is a precious platform to let Hanks finally have something extraordinary to offer, he completes it with consummate precision and sublimates the predictable fallout of the false hope. Unfortunately due to a crammed year with sterling candidates, Hanks is left out of the nomination list, quite an upsetting snub, but he plays a real person who lacks for a distinctive character except he is under an extreme situation, not showy enough is the detrimental disadvantage. Abdi is the MVP among the pirates four, not as irritable and impatient as the hackneyed short-fuse Najee (Ahmed), he is a human being with flesh and blood, he is the one captain Phillips can relate to under such circumstances, all diversities aside, basically they both work for their respective bosses and want to finish their jobs with minimal casualties. His bold final move can be interpreted as a smart judgment call, his American dream ironically fulfills in a different way, at least he can be plumb free of his ill-destined fate.

Nominated for 6 Oscars including BEST PICTURE (both Hanks and Greengrass are brutally snubbed here), CAPTAIN PHILLIPS is at best an unbiased recount of a man's individual struggle during a hanging-by-a-thread ride, and at worst, it is an unimaginative hostage story with jejune perpetrators wield weapons and demand unrealistic ransom, no one can beat the principled USS army, do you get the message?
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