Captain Phillips

Tom HanksBased on a true story published in the book “A Captain’s Duty:Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS and Dangerous Days At Sea” by Captain Richard Phillips, the film tells the account of how his cargo ship, the US Maersk Alabama was hijacked in 2009 by a handful of Somali pirates and he himself later kidnapped by them in a emergency lifeboat and held hostage whilst the US Navy pursued. Tom Hanks plays our eponymous hero whom isn’t too romantically portrayed. Indeed, you can see at the start of the film that many of his staff  appear to have their noses put out of joint by his officiousness. This seemingly innocuous start to the film is essential however as it sets the tone that Captain Phillips was not a hero. He was a victim of circumstance, but so was his Somali captors whose desperation is clear in the remainder of the film.

Captain Phillips #2

Google search appears to omit the 4 Somali actors who played the pirates

And on that note I pass to the other stars of the film, though a search on Google may suggest otherwise. Type in “Captain Phillips” and the cast list appears to leave out the four Somali actors who play the pirates. So let me attempt to make amends and congratulate Faysal Ahmed, Barkhad Abdirahman, Mahat M. Ali and Barkhad Abdi for their excellent performances. To have played baddies or “Die Hard” terrorists would have been easy. Instead, they mix determination, vitriol and thuggery with fear, paranoia and hope to beautifully delicate heights. Indeed, I’m pleased that at the time of writing, BAFTA and The Academy have nominated Barkhad Abdi for supporting actor. I think awards, if they are any use at all, should definitely be given to rising hopefuls to boost future work rather than celebrating the same old fluff!

Indeed, it would be good to see Captain Phillips do well on the gong front as it was quite an original idea and an accomplishment for director Paul Greengrass who has made a very layered and engaging film despite it being set in the very bland and dull environment of the ocean, without resorting to cheap thrills and effects (no big slow motion storm waves and epic explosions) There is a bitter aftertaste as I was left thinking why exactly “International Waters”  means a “free-for-all” for the strongest nations, usually America. There is a beautiful moment when one of the pirates explains that fish stock in Somali waters has become so depleted for his country’s fishermen because of greed and disobedience of international law by other countries. Compare their frail crafts to the massive cargo vessel, symbolic of western materialistic greed. And fundamentally, the film explores mans own fragility captured impeccably by Hanks in the last scene as, during a medical inspection, the whole experience catches up with the captain. Superb acting. There’s a reason why this guy has won 2 Oscars!

 

Posted in 2014, BAFTA's 2014, Oscar's 2014

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