Thursday, 23 January 2014

Pirates of Somalia

True stories are always a draw for movie makers and lovers alike, especially when they involve exciting things like the military, heroism, or pirates. Today’s film involves all of the previously stated. This is Captain Phillips.

Captain Phillips (Tom Hanks) is simply a man doing his job. Sailing his cargo ship round one of the most dangerous points of Africa, an area ripe with pirates. Unfortunately a group of these pirates decide to make Phillip’ ship their target, but the captain will not go down without a fight. Using everything he knows about boats and pirates, he resists their boarding as hard as he can. However, pirate leader (Barkhad Abdi) will not be put off so easily. With only three men, he storms Phillip's giant metal ship and what follows is a tense true story of one man’s bravery, or arguably, stupidity.

The irony of being led into a lifeboat at gun point...

There are few actors out there with the talent and experience of Hanks. From romantic comedies, to animation, to Oscars, he has done it all. And here he shines again. Phillips is a not extraordinary in any way. He is just a family man that just sticks to his training but Hanks brings him to life when disaster strikes. He creates an air of authority with his voice alone while his face shows the fear that he is experience. The pinnacle of his performance comes towards the end of the film in a truly intimate and devastating sequence of events that turns Phillips on his head. Captain Phillips shows all of Hanks' incredibly impressive range without a hitch. Abdi, in his debut in the acting world, is astonishing - and completely horrifying. Horrifying in two senses. Firstly, Abdi creates an entirely despicable man. Determined to do, what we would consider, evil and completely unrelenting. Secondly, he is terrifyingly human. Piracy and kidnapping are his only options, and in his time with Phillips in the hotbox of a lifeboat, there is a devastating sympathy developed for him. Together, Hanks and Abdi's chemistry forces the viewer to question the terrible cultural differences in our world.

The Boatstreet Boys are back and grittier than ever.

This, of course, is helped hugely by Billy Ray's screenplay and Paul Greengrass' direction. A brilliant adaptation of Phillips' book by Ray which is then paced perfectly by Greengrass to keep you on the edge of your seat for most of the two hour runtime. Greengrass roots the story where it is; it does not cut away to side plots or stories, just what we need to see. The pirates preparing, the ship sailing, the attack, the navy's response. Even these scenes are only kept to the essentials, the moments that matter. There is never a wasted second of film. An impressively claustrophobic atmosphere is created as well, despite being out in the open sea. The camera is rarely on the exterior of the ship, and inside we see the cramped rooms, full of seamen tucked into corners. Even on the bridge, the place with the most room, still seems to have no space with close ups of Phillips, and any shots of the outside of the bridge filmed through the windows or binoculars. The message is clear: there is no escape - no where to go. 

A thrilling adventure of courage, fear, bravery, heroism, stupidity, honour, humanity, and culture. Captain Phillips does more than tell a true story of a pirate attack, it looks at the people involved. It develops all the characters and blurs the lines of evil acts.

Best Bit? In terms of Hank's performance, the very end of the film. But the true desperation we see in Phillips when he makes a bid for freedom is hauntingly powerful. 

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