Tom Hanks has the potential to be a game changer in any film he is in. During Captain Phillips, he not only elevates his own game but he helps become part of a larger picture one that is focused on everyone involved.
Captain Richard Phillips is sailing a cargo ship off the coast of Somalia when he is crew are attacked by four pirates looking for money. Captain Phillips tries to out manoeuvre the pirates, but his ultimate goal is to make sure nothing happens to his crew.
There is always a sense of looming dread that is carried right from the opening frame until the final frame, but Captain Phillips hits the panic button when the pirates begin boarding the cargo ship. From that point on it is relentless, nerve racking and intense. It never allows you a moment to relax, breath and think everything might be alright. It keeps it's grip firmly planted, tightening around you as the experiences of Captain Phillips become tense. It's impossible not to feel completely immersed in the atmosphere as this film cuts you off from the real word and takes you on a horrific ride through a scenario that lasts only a couple of days but is so hardwired with cut throat intensity your pulse will be pounding by the time it is over.
As an entire film there moments of Captain Phillips that are drawn up Hollywoodized versions of the truth, but really when is that not the case? When it all begins to head for the climax, it seems rather focused on becoming one of those films that comes down to the final moments rather then about the people involved in the ordeal. That was the only time this film lost track of this being a character piece and not another Hollywood story. This actually happened in real life, out in the middle of African waters and it surely would have been the most harrowing experience of any mans life. There are moments when Tom Hanks is the key to upping the stakes and adding to the atmosphere, and there are times when Paul Greengrass succumbs to traditional action film tactics to remind us that Hollywood tends to do these type of thing in order to create a more dynamic conclusion.
Captain Phillips relies heavily on Tom Hanks being the sole member of the cast with a recognizable amount of fame, but at times they deviate from him being the central focus and allow for the Somalian characters to take a moment of spotlight, especially the leader played by Barkhad Abdi. His bony physique and sunken face make allow for his scenes of brutality to be more menacing, but even through out the entire ordeal Muse seems to have a genuine concern for the Captain of the American cargo ship. Abdi is able to counter balance Hanks' fervent performance, creating a character who's layers make you question why it all had to end up happening this way. Hanks may be the star and the lead actor who can carry the film no other , but it Abdi is the key piece to creating a film thats focus right from the start was more a study of the characters psyche during the ordeal then it was about time-honoured action expectancies.
Overall Captain Phillips stays the course, and provides a narrative that could quite possibly be one of the most compelling films of 2013 and an easy lock for a best picture nomination. If you stay the course with this film, and take the Hollywoodized scenes with the raw and gripping scenes you will find yourself sitting on the edge of your seat unable to take a moment to look away. You will absolutely be immersed in this engaging tale of survival, just remember to take a breath when it is all said and done.