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Captain Phillips
Crime, Drama, Thriller, Action, Adventure, Biography
IMDB rating:
Paul Greengrass
Tom Hanks as Captain Richard Phillips
Faysal Ahmed as Najee
Mahat M. Ali as Elmi
Mohamed Ali as Asad
Barkhad Abdi as Muse
Michael Chernus as Shane Murphy
David Warshofsky as Mike Perry
Yul Vazquez as Captain Frank Castellano
Chris Mulkey as John Cronan
Corey Johnson as Ken Quinn
Catherine Keener as Andrea Phillips
Max Martini as SEAL Commander
Storyline: Captain Phillips is a multi-layered examination of the 2009 hijacking of the U.S. container ship Maersk Alabama by a crew of Somali pirates. It is - through director Paul Greengrass's distinctive lens - simultaneously a pulse-pounding thriller, and a complex portrait of the myriad effects of globalization. The film focuses on the relationship between the Alabama's commanding officer, Captain Richard Phillips (two time Academy Award®-winner Tom Hanks), and the Somali pirate captain, Muse (Barkhad Abdi), who takes him hostage. Phillips and Muse are set on an unstoppable collision course when Muse and his crew target Phillips' unarmed ship; in the ensuing standoff, 145 miles off the Somali coast, both men will find themselves at the mercy of forces beyond their control.
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Voices of the voiceless
"Of the crooked timber, no straight thing can ever be made." - Immanuel Kant

Paul Greengrass directed "United 93" in 2006. The film was marketed as an "apolitical" and "objective" account of the September 11th attacks, but was devoid of all historical context, and so functioned more as a Pentagon propaganda piece. Here was a film about a handful of state assisted Saudi Arabians attacking at least 3 high profile US buildings which totally ignored the United States' relationship with Saudi Arabia, totally ignored how these attacks were used as a pretext to launch two illegal wars, totally ignored US ties to Al Qaeda, the group purportedly behind the attacks (on the very day of 9/11, the US were collaborating with Al Qaeda within the Macedonia civil war), and totally ignored both the motivations behind the attacks and what certain Saudi's stood to gain from another Western crusade. To this date, the 9/11 Commission, the White House, FBI, CIA and British government have failed to provide proof (not garnered from water-boarding) that Al Qaeda carried out 9/11 or that Al Qaeda chieftain Osama Bin Laden masterminded the attacks, let alone that these groups or individuals constitute the governments of Iraq and Afghanistan, the two countries upon whom wars of retaliation were subsequently waged. Osama Bin Laden was killed in 2011 (again no evidence was presented to the public). In 2001, before the US invasion of Afghanistan, the Bush administration turned down offers by Afghanistan's Taliban groups to turn Bin Laden peacefully over to US authorities.

Like "United 93", "Captain Phillips" revolves around a vessel being hijacked. Here the Maersk Alabama, a Danish/American container ship, is boarded by four armed Somali pirates. The pirates battle with the Alabama's crew, before escaping with the ship's captain (Tom Hanks) aboard a lifeboat. The United States Navy then arrives. They surround this lifeboat with a small fleet and proceed to assassinate three pirates. The fourth survives, and is subsequently jailed in America. Captain Phillips survives.

Whilst Greengrass obviously sympathises with both his Somalis and the crew of the Alabama, you simply can't frame a film as a thriller, or depend heavily on the US Navy loaning you a flotilla of aircraft carriers and destroyers, and not expect it to be anything other than compromised. This is ultimately a film in which the Somalis are manic bad guys (high on drugs, no less), in which the Alabama's crew are good guys "delivering aid to Africa" (most of their cargo wasn't relief aid), in which all context is ignored and in which the US Navy does "murderous but wholly necessary things". The film is matter-of-fact to a fault. This is all there is to reality, it says. Accept it.

But as everyone knows, to the point of being smugly annoying, that is not "all there is". The Somali pirates are largely a result of Western companies dumping nuclear and toxic waste off Somalia's coast, coupled to severe illegal over-fishing by foreign super trawlers (300 million dollars worth of seafood stolen from Somalia each year). The United Nations would itself release numerous reports blaming toxic waste for mutations, deaths, diseases and illnesses within Somalia. Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the UN envoy for Somalia, would say: "There is uranium, lead, cadmium, mercury, industrial, radioactive, hospital and chemical waste killing Somalis and completely destroying the ocean." Why can companies do this? Because Somalia's government has all but collapsed, thanks to Western Empires deliberately destabilizing and developmentally arresting the nation, funding warlords, dictators (Siad Barre et al) and instigating proxy wars with border nations. This has been going on, uninterrupted, since the late 1950s; any local government body not beholden to Western corporate interests, and which attempts to nationalise resources, will be destroyed.

In the early 2000s, Somalia began to fight back. To oppose US-backed warlords, right-wing religious factions began to unite, some under the name The Union of Islamic Courts. The UIC united almost all of Somalia and provided stability, but was nevertheless swiftly demonized by the West – their unwitting creators - as "Islamist terrorists". Because the CIA solves everything with bullets and blood, the US and UK then pushed its Ethiopian puppets into invading Somalia. Tens of thousands died and the UIC was pushed back. Tired of all this crap, and forged in a cocktail of anarchy, the militant group Al Shabaab was formed, partially to fight off Western and Ethiopian gangs. Today, they are US public enemy number 1.

Whilst Greengrass undoubtedly intends his film to be a work of social critique, possibly like some of his earlier pictures ("The Green Zone"), "Captain's" narrow scope hampers things. You can not tackle such a loaded event in such a constrictive manner and expect it not to set up, intentionally or otherwise, many false assumptions. One senses Greengrass attempting something approaching satire – the idea of a film in which a zillion dollar US fleet is absurdly pitted against four lowly pirates who literally struggle to "climb to the top of a (socioeconomic?) ladder" is genius – but satire is completely beyond him. Juxtaposed scenes in which Hanks and our pirates talk about "fighting for promotions" feel, for example, reductive rather than enlightening.

Beyond politics, the film is tense, well shot, but also repetitive and overlong. The casting of Hanks brings dubious (and possibly ironic) connotations, Hanks the poster boy for a post-John Wayne Americana ("Apollo 13", "Private Ryan", "Band of Brothers"), genteel but packing heat. Philosopher Jacques Ellul once predicted that future propaganda would increasingly portray itself as being "apolitical", "naturalistic" and cloak itself in "realism". Greengrass' military-men are emblematic of this shift: grim, stoic and fixated on "just doing their jobs", everything forever outside their purview and moral radar. Greengrass' camera adopts the same stance.

6/10 – Wastes a good premise.
Intense - features a standout performance by Tom Hanks
Tom Hanks is terrific in the title role, playing the real life captain of the Maersk Alabama, a cargo ship that was hijacked off the eastern coast of Africa by Somali pirates in April, 2009. Although the filmmakers changed some elements of the actual story to make Phillips appear more heroic - and less to blame for the incident - there is no doubt that he suffered greatly, physically and psychologically, during the ordeal. For days, Captain Phillips was the sole hostage of four volatile Somalis in an enclosed lifeboat; they hoped to receive millions of dollars in an exchange.

Director Paul Greengrass and editor Christopher Rouse (who received an Oscar nomination) did an excellent job of capturing the suffocating heat and cramped spaces of the lifeboat, while Hanks portrays a wide range of emotions, mostly without words. The actor's most powerful scene is the film's last, as Hanks perfectly affects a man in shock, mentally reliving the horror of his captivity while involuntarily sobbing in relief to be freed from it all.

Barkhad Abdi plays Muse, who dubbed Phillips "Irish", in an Academy Award nominated Best Supporting Actor performance. Muse struggled to keep his own crewmates under control while resisting the pressure exerted by the United States Navy. The situation was eventually resolved by SEAL Team 6 snipers, whose skills enabled them to simultaneously 'execute' the three remaining hijackers after Muse had been tricked into boarding the U.S.S. Bainbridge (a destroyer) for negotiations.

The movie was nominated for Best Motion Picture of the Year, as was its Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, and Adapted Screenplay writer Billy Ray.
Interesting movie
We don't know so much about these activities oversea. It was interesting watch story about different point of view. Very interesting "play" with camera, it involves about story. You feel on shoes of every character on screen. It was a good thriller. It's incredible things happened on our world these days.
Starts well, but dragged on.
We watched the film, and after 30 minutes, started wondering why this was supposed to be so good. Well it all became a rather boring experience, and keeping our eyes open until the end , became a bit of an ordeal. Sometimes we viewers can be seduced into overpraising ordinary story telling, when the work fails to entertain, having been over hyped up by the media. Far too long, and be sure to have the guts to check out the less positive reviews, before deciding to watch this overlong, and dull production.
Where is the NRA when you need them !
Whether or not you want to attack this movie for not being a truthful depiction of what really occurred to the real Captain Philips, I can see this movie being a talking point for anyone who supports the NRA (National Rifle Association) Can't you see a Spokesperson from the NRA use this movie as an example why we need to have more handguns in the hands of "good" people as oppose to "bad" people. I do not in anyway want to support or defend the NRA on any matter, however, I can see the point of having firearms available on the boat to defend oneself against Pirates who want to kill you and take your boat. I am not an expert on the common practice and law in the world of Captain Philips, but it seemed if the crew was "packing heat" that day, this movie would have been a 30 minute short instead of the epic that it was. I'm sure the millions of dollars spent on the rescue mission that took up half this movie would have been saved if someone had a sick shooter next to the first aid kit for Tom Hanks to use to defend his crew. Overall, Tom Hanks gives a good performance like he has in the last 20 years. The movie is an intellectual roller coaster on the high seas. The movie starts slow but finishes strong, and the movie leaves you thinking as well as somewhat entertained. Still, the idea of having the second amendment on the boat with you against Pirates makes you kind of angry that the second part of the movie was allowed to happen. I don't' think I am alone on this....thoughts?
Great movie with lots of great scenes.
There are multiple scenes in this film that make you feel good and some that make you feel bad. The hostage scenes look real, and have great affects. The boats also make a great part to the movie. Captain Phillips is a great actor and perfect for the movie. Altogether, this is a very realistic and dramatic movie that I cannot fault. 10/10 Recommend!
Entertaining and informative
I actually served in Task Force 150, the international fleet dedicated to anti-piracy operations in the Indian Ocean and this brought back a lot of memories. We never caught any pirates but that's largely because if they saw something big, grey and pointy on the horizon they'd dump their weapons overboard and play act at being fishermen again (but I guess preventing hijacks was half the job).

Very interesting with a good performance from Hanks especially. How long since you saw a film dealing with the lives of ordinary sailors, the 'truckers of the sea'? Probably not since WW2 propaganda films frankly. It's interesting that Philips isn't necessarily depicted as the most popular captain in the world, very realistic in my experience, the company man who has to balance the welfare of his crew against the demands of his employers, the crew enduring long periods of isolation, danger and wearying duties at sea keen to get every penny they can in exchange for it, conscious of the value of their cargo and how important to the owners that it is delivered on time. Also a nice touch that we get to see the Somali side of things. It doesn't sugar coat it, these guys may have started out as fishermen who started hijacking foreign deepsea trawlers which had plundered their waters dry but we see that this is actually big business and organised accordingly. They're not depicted as evil (maybe that would be different today with the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Somalia?), they're depicted as human, we can identify with them if not sympathise entirely.

Nice to see Max Martini, one of my favourite actors from The Unit who always seems to be portraying Special Forces types. A shame they never fitted in the true story of the CIA's Somali-speaking interpreters who made their first parachute jump each strapped onto a Navy SEAL, at night, directly into the shark infested Indian Ocean so that they could negotiate Philips' release. Always cracks me up the scene where the pirate who has been taken aboard the US warship to negotiate (thus neatly reducing the number of targets the SEAL snipers have to simultaneously take out by a quarter at a stroke) is informed that his friends are all dead, Philips is free and he's now under arrest in no uncertain terms, going from holding all the cards to holding zip in a matter of seconds.

Favourite scene however has to be when they phone up the US Navy's emergency helpline and no one answers, the sort of thing that happens in real life but you'd never see portrayed in fiction (at least the Royal Navy answers the phone even if the WREN on duty can't offer anything but hopeful advice).
Fine docu-drama but not much more
I'm a big fan of Paul Greengrass, but it seems that in Captain Phillips he was trying too hard not to take sides, having perhaps taken too much criticism for the partisanship of his brilliant films Bloody Sunday and Green Zone. It's not that I felt this new film desperately needed to make a political statement. It's just that it fails to make any statement at all. Or even to provide basic context for the events it depicts.

The production is certainly impeccable. The shipboard settings, the procedures, and Tom Hanks' character are so totally believable that it's easy to forget you're not watching a documentary. (*Mild spoilers*...) Hanks' initial efforts to safeguard his crew, and to calm the pirates, are clever and engrossing. But at some point, that impetus evaporates, and we're left with a very realistic, very tense situation in which the lead character no longer plays any part other than that of helpless victim. Things unwind like clockwork, with no particular twists or surprises. That may be how it happened, but it's not how to make a great action film.

I did appreciate Greengrass' effort to humanize the pirates. (If there's an Oscar going for this film, it belongs to Barkhad Abdi, for his nuanced performance as the pirate leader.) But the film stops short of any real exploration of the social or political pressures behind the incident it depicts. It fails to comment on the astounding spectacle of multiple billion-dollar navy ships and SEAL teams doing battle with four guys in a dinghy. It doesn't even address the obvious question of why a valuable merchant ship, registered in the most gun-happy country on Earth, and traveling through known pirate waters, doesn't have a weapons locker, or a security guard, or a single personal sidearm.

Tom Hanks is excellent as always, but this is not an Oscar-worthy *role*. Hanks plays on just two notes: first restrained and competent, then shifting quite abruptly to broken and terrified. This seems very realistic, and it's perfectly played. But it's just not that interesting. The script does little to analyze Phillips' eventual breakdown; it merely notes it as one more part of the scenario.

Bottom line, I enjoyed watching Captain Phillips, and I greatly admired the technique of both Greengrass and Hanks. But I didn't find the film particularly insightful, memorable or - considering the lack of character development or plot - exciting. It stands up well enough as a simple document of an actual event, but fails to tell me why that event might have been important enough to merit a big-budget movie treatment.
An intense adventure
Paul Greengrass, known for "The Bourne Ultimatum" and for "United 93" brings us a really intense thriller about the true story of Captain Richard Phillips and the 2009 hijacking by Somali pirates of the US- flagged MV Maersk Alabama. With a really intense atmosphere and a powerful story, "Captain Phillips" it's definitely a must-see for everyone. Another excellent movie that after grabbing your attention, will leave you speechless until the credits role.

With "Captain Phillips", Paul Greengrass manages to provide the same intensity level of "United 93" adding a much more powerful story. Tom Hanks and Barkhad Abdi have done terrific jobs by interpreting really difficult characters. It's impossible not to feel moved with Tom Hanks performance as Captain Richard Phillips. The other three actors that portrayed the pirates that hijacked the ship, have also made really remarkable performances, giving a sense of realism to the movie I was not expecting to see.

This adaptation of the book "A Captain's Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS, and Dangerous Days at Sea" by Captain Richard Phillips himself will therefore bring you some really strong emotions and feelings.

So if you want to watch a movie with a powerful and remarkable story with brilliant performances and intense action sequences and experience this realistic adventure that will get your attention right from the beginning, "Captain Phillips" it's my suggestion for you. "Captain Phillips" it's definitely one of the best films of the year!
Don't believe the hype
Why critics are so gaga over this movie, I have no idea. But once again, it is my job to be the voice of reason. There is no doubt the true story of the real Captain Phillips is quite compelling, but due to a misguided directorial effort from Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Supremacy, The Bourne Ultimatum) "Captain Phillips" the movie simply comes off as a bit hollow and shockingly boring.

Based on the true story of Captain Richard Phillips (played by Tom Hanks) who in 2009 was the Captain of an American cargo ship, which was hijacked by Somali pirates, I realize it makes me sound crazy or heartless that I was somewhat bored with a movie containing a premise which can only be described as: surefire Oscar bait, but… I'll get right to the point. The biggest problem with "Captain Phillips" is that not for one second did I believe Captain Phillips was in any danger of dying…and the man had multiple guns pointed to his head throughout! And before you say it, this criticism had nothing to do with the fact that I already knew the real life ending, because I knew the "real life" ending of "Argo" as well, but due to some excellent direction (thank you Ben Affleck) I questioned the survival of those characters until the very end. This goes back to the suspect direction that takes this "can't miss" premise about a hostage situation and injects very little suspense or peril.

The only thing saving this venture is the interactions between Captain Phillips and Muse (played by amateur actor, Barkhad Abdi) the Somali pirate leader. During these interactions the plight of the pirates does become more layered, therefore extending the premise of this film beyond the trailer. But other than that, Greengrass gives us little more than what's shown in the trailers. In fact, what he adds (a few million dollar tracking shots and a plethora of the Greengrass hand-held shots) only detracts from the film, as these camera movements become far too distracting when characters are simply standing still and attempting to have a conversation. I mean, while this could be considered to be somewhat of an "action film", for much of "Captain Phillips" it seemed as if Greengrass thought he was directing the next installment in the Bourne series, instead of a maritime drama, which (judging by the script) was meant to focus on personal interactions rather than hand to hand combat.

This next paragraph may contain a spoiler: The Acting: Everybody on screen gives fine performances. But, the thing I would like to touch on is Tom Hanks' performance in the final few minutes of this movie. In the final few minutes, due to the situation Captain Phillips is placed in, Hanks must act as though he is under great emotional duress. I never associated the term "overacting" with the great Tom Hanks, but the performance he puts forth in the final ten minutes, will surely garner scattered snickers from audiences.

Final Thought: "Captain Phillips" is a clear example of one of those films where meaningful things are happening on screen and (as an audience member) you understand that you should be feeling something, but, due to the director's inability to form an emotional connection with his audience, feel nothing but disconnection from the action. If you want to see a good movie about Somali piracy, check out "Asad", the Oscar nominated short from a year ago. But unless you're talking about a DVD rental, don't waste eleven dollars on "Captain Phillips".

Written by Markus Robinson, Edited by Nicole I. Ashland
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