Matt Adcock’s film review: Oscars ahoy as Hanks helms a true-life tale of piracy

“Attention Maersk Alabama, you should alert your crew, get your fire hoses ready. Chances are the approaching skiffs are just fishermen.”
Tom Hanks stars in Captain PhillipsTom Hanks stars in Captain Phillips
Tom Hanks stars in Captain Phillips

The skipper simply replies: “They’re not here to fish.”

And indeed the Somalis who come calling do not have fishing at the top of their ‘to do’ list.

Led by Muse (Barkhad Abdi), they are pirates intent on hijacking the US container ship and holding the crew to ransom.

Tom Hanks stars in Captain PhillipsTom Hanks stars in Captain Phillips
Tom Hanks stars in Captain Phillips

Director Paul Greengrass brings this true tale of sea-based terrorism to nail-biting big screen life.

And the result is a superb exercise in taut edge-of-your-seat thrills, and the fact that it is based on real events from the recent past only serves to make it even more tense.

Star of the show is the Alabama’s commanding officer Captain Richard Phillips, two time Academy Award winner and all round everyman Tom Hanks, on the form of his life depicting the brave captain who is prepared to risk everything for his crew.

He brings such a tangible sense of fear to the screen that you’ll be deeply moved and find yourself forgetting that he’s acting. Speaking of which, the actors portraying the Somali pirates weren’t introduced to Hanks until they started filming the pirates taking over the captain’s deck. Greengrass did this to build up tension between the actors on board the ship and their invading counterparts, and it certainly works.

The Somali actors are excellent, too, even though most of them hadn’t acted before – they bring authentic desperation and danger to the plot, and their motivations are sketched out at the beginning, as we see fearsome warlord bosses forcing them into criminal lives.

The action ramps up when the U.S. Navy SEALS led by their commander – Max ‘Pacific Rim’ Martini – are called in to try and rescue Phillips.

It is like seeing a PlayStation game come to life as the snipers desperately try and lock on to their pirate targets while trying to keep their hostage out of the firing line.

Muse and Phillips collide in a series of crackling exchanges – the sparks really fly, these might both be men at the mercy of forces beyond their control but the battle of wills is awesome to behold.

Captain Philips is very well crafted film, featuring stunning cinematography and acting.

Hanks must be up for another Oscar for his work in a film you really need to witness on the big screen – and he may not be the only one.

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