Biopics are a curious genre in the world of cinema. By looking closely into the lives of people who have lived through strange or unique experiences, biopics provide viewers with a rare glimpse that only movies are able to showcase. There are of course a lot of films from this genre that have not been able to deliver a valuable and memorable viewing experience. However, those that have done so managed to create those magical moments mainly thanks to the cohesiveness of its acting, directing, and writing departments. Captain Phillips is one such motion picture. It is a movie that makes excellent use of its gifted actors, talented director, and gripping screenplay, giving film-goers a thrilling cinematic adventure.
Captain Phillips is directed by Paul Greengrass and stars Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi, Barkhad Abdirahman, Chris Mulkey, and Catherine Keener. The film is based on the true story of Captain Richard Phillips who, while in charge of the American-flagged MV Maersk Alabama cargo ship in 2009, comes under attack from Somali pirates looking to hijack the ship. The motion picture is an action-adventure biopic that runs for two hours and fourteen minutes.
One of the best aspects in Captain Phillips is certainly the acting performances, chiefly from Academy Award-winner Tom Hanks. I have long been a fan of this fine actor ever since his lovable and delightful role in 1994’s Forrest Gump. However, this film will remind viewers more of his solo acting efforts, such as in Cast Away (2000) and The Terminal (2004). In those movies, Hanks’s character is left to fend for himself amongst unfamiliar, even frightening, circumstances that force him to rely on his persistence and courage to overcome them. What I found most impressive about his work as Captain Richard Phillips is how he is able to completely let viewers believe in him and his actions. He is the captain of the distressed ship who will do anything in his power to protect it and its crew from any impending harm. Hanks is simply mesmerizing thanks to his powerful facial expressions and unique accent that combine to help him give off one of his best performances in recent years. An Oscar nomination is not too far off. If he does get nominated, it will be much deserved for one of Hollywood’s most beloved actors.
The breakout performance in this motion picture, though, is surely that by the Somali-American actor Barkhad Abdi. As the smart, confident, and wily pirate Muse, Abdi is instantly hypnotic. He has an intense look throughout the picture that makes him its most intimidating character by far. I am quite impressed by Abdi in Captain Phillips especially since this is his film debut. To give such a confident performance in your film debut is no doubt a sign of an actor fully assured of his abilities as an actor. His scenes with Tom Hanks’s Phillips are easily amongst the film’s best scenes; the interplay between both characters in those stressful moments only adds to the thrilling atmosphere that the movie tries to build. A terrific piece of acting from one of the year’s breakout performers.
Those two great acting performances are surely thanks to the excellent work done by the film’s director, Paul Greengrass. A master storyteller of suspenseful action films, Greengrass has created an enviable career in this genre with such great films as The Bourne Supremacy (2004), United 93 (2006), and The Bourne Ultimatum (2007). With Captain Phillips, Greengrass uses his keen eye of directing to craft a two-hour thrill ride that grabs viewers from the neck and keeps a hold of them to the very last minutes. But, it is his way of doing so via an intelligent script, written by Billy Ray, that distinguishes his efforts from other directors who only go for the cheap thrill. His pacing of the movie is also perfect as there are no boring or needless scenes to be seen. I enjoy watching Greengrass’s films multiple times because they always have a freshness to them that is rarely seen nowadays. Captain Phillips might not be his masterpiece but it is definitely one of his best efforts. He is an extremely gifted director who continues to intrigue me.
I really enjoyed watching Captain Phillips. It is a movie that deftly manages to combine superb acting, meticulous directing, and sharp writing into something very special indeed. Survival movies might have gone ‘out of style’ during the past few years but Paul Greengrass reminds us that there are still new areas to discover and tell in this unique genre. By creating a careful balancing act between the dramatic and action sequences, he is able to produce a film that works very well for the most part. It is that success by Greengrass that gives his film all the elements needed to give film-lovers an experience that will thrill and excite them.
MATM Rating: ***1/2 out of ****
- Tom Hanks (as Captain Richard Phillips)
- Barkhad Abdi (as Muse)
2 hour and 14 minutes
Action / Adventure / Biopic