Taking real life events and turning them into movies is a bit of a double edged sword -in terms of pleasing people anyway. Some folks will want to have a good film to watch, regardless of how close it to the actual event, and then there are the people who care about the authenticity of the film, wanting to see something closer to a re-enactment more than anything else. With Captain Phillips, the audience is once again split into these two groups. And while many critics and viewers would rather just enjoy a well delivered film with great acting (on the part of lead actor Tom Hanks anyway), those who feel little more emotionally involved in the actual events are saying that the film doesn't pay proper respect to what actually happened.
Anyway, for those who are not familiar with the film, this is a movie about a real life hijacking of an American cargo ship back in 2009 by modern day pirates. As one would expect, the filmmakers had to go to certain liberties in order to create a cohesive film with a narrative for the audience to follow.
Before we jump straight into the film review, we'll just bring this up first: the former crew of the Maersk Alabama (who were the victims of the hijacking, along with the real Captain Phillips) is currently suing Maersk with regards to the unfortunate events. And according to anonymous sources, it is being said that the portrayal of Philips in the film is inaccurate as he is not the heroic person that the film makes him out to be. Chief Engineer Mike Perry is heralded by the crew as their hero -though Perry has little role in the film. There are also allegations that it was the Captain's own deliberately reckless actions that led to them being targeted by Somali pirates.
Back to the Film
All that said and done, the film is still an amazing movie to watch. Tom Hanks lets go of his typical 'approachable' guy routine and dons a tough-as-nails attitude as the captain of a ship. His acting prowess proves him to be a great choice in the film as the rest of the cast's acting leaves much to be desired. Fortunately, the film's overall plot simply revolves around Phillips, and the suspenseful delivery and Hank's skills alone turn this film into a veritable success.
Barkhad Abdi plays the role of the pirate Muse, whom Hanks exchanges some rather pointed dialogue with. There are plenty of secondary political agendas being brought up in the course of the film, making it feel a little "smarter" and politically modern than it is, but fret not, the director still managed to keep the focus on the events that are happening and the buildup of tension and suspense is pretty strong once the main event (the hijacking) begins and continues evenly till the very end of the movie. The first 20 or so minutes is spend wisely too, allowing you to learn a little about the various characters and particularly, the titular Captain Phillips.
Director Paul Greengrass is at his element -taking stories from actual real life events and turning them into cinematic pieces. While his works does have that raw edgy feel (shaky-cam, grains, and how it all seems like a re-enactment), it is actually a carefully balanced movie that focuses on a solid plot. The cinematography and score for this movie is nothing short of well done, allowing viewers to remain focused on the events that unfold onscreen.
Viewers will love this movie as a film, as for the fact that it is based on a real life event, take that bit as a novelty. While it may add some spice for some viewers, the fact is that Captain Philips is a good movie to watch on its' own. Despite the general number of the cast being unfamiliar faces (which we can attribute to Greengrass' technique of making things look "real") with very average acting skills, it is the plot that pushes this story forward. Tom Hanks takes the lead role with much fervor and gusto that we could not help but wonder if he personally feels strongly about the story, but in any case, it certainly seems that way.