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STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
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FILM DETAILS
Certificate
12A
Cast
Tom Hanks
Catherine Keener
Barkhad Abdi
Barkhad Addirahman
Faysal Ahmed
Mahat M. Ali
Michael Chernus.
Directors
Paul Greengrass.
Screenwriters
Billy Ray.
Running Time
134 minutes

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Captain Phillips
Sea Trek: Into Darkness


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Plot
In April 2009, US container ship the Maersk Alabama was boarded by four Somali pirates who took its captain, one-time Boston cabbie Richard Phillips, hostage. The crisis played out over five days, and this film recreates those events.


Review
Captain Phillips
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“Everything is going to okay.” You’ll hear that line, or subtle variations thereof, repeated many times during Captain Phillips. It’s an unsettling and ironic mantra and, given it’s spoken by a Somali pirate, also the hollowest of reassurances. And yet, crucially, it never plays as a veiled threat. Partly this is due to an impressive performance by first-time Somali actor Barkhad Abdi, as pirate lieutenant Muse. But also due to a level of emotional (and political) complexity we should have come to expect from both writer Billy Ray (Shattered Glass, Breach) and director Paul Greengrass. If you came here for a ‘Go America!’ tale of bright Yankee perseverance amid dire straits and dark intentions far overseas, you got off at the wrong port. This is a tale less of heroism-versus-villainy than different shades of victimhood.

As you’d expect, on the Greengrass spectrum Captain Phillips is closer to United 93 than The Bourne Ultimatum: based on recent true events, with an even-handed, detail-heavy procedural approach that in no way constrains psychological and emotional exploration. It provides a kind of comfort zone for Greengrass, but this is clearly where he does his best work, so it is also a welcome return to form after he came unstuck trying to dredge mainstream thrills from non-existent Iraqi WMD in 2010’s Green Zone. As in United 93, Greengrass aims to present reality through a clear, documentarian lens, observing things as they likely happened, blow by horrible blow, rather than filtered through Hollywood clichés. There are no cutaways to desk-thumping Pentagon guys, tie-straightening politicos, or hand-wringing relatives gathered around TVs. Once Phillips leaves the US, so do we. Unless you view the casting of Tom Hanks cynically — and we don’t — there is no attempt to crassly crowdplease.

Yet it still has all the momentum and clench-strength to do exactly that: please crowds. After brief parallel set-ups in Vermont, USA and Eyl, Somalia, during which there’s some thematically ripe dialogue (“Gotta be strong to survive out there,” Phillips tells his wife Andrea, played by Catherine Keener, while discussing their kids on a drive to the airport), the action thunders along while relentlessly maintaining tension.

Greengrass has a passion for detail: after an hour you’ll know how to repel assault rifle-wielding pirates if you don’t have access to firearms, and how to react if they do fight their way onto the decks. What is most surprising is how it is the pirates, rather than the seamen, who have the odds stacked against them. Phillips’ ship is an immense metal hulk festooned with high-pressure water cannons. “We got the speed, we got the height, we got the hoses,” insists Phillips. As an audience, we are so used to rooting for underdogs that there’s a temptation to applaud Muse and his three (three!) companions once they do board, especially as we’ve had a brief insight into the impoverished and perilous circumstances which induced them to do so. “No al-Qaeda here,” Muse ‘assures’ Phillips once he’s taken nominal control. “Just business.”

Even later, once Phillips — “Irish” to his captors — has been taken hostage and the drama transfers to the claustrophobic, hotbox confines of a hijacked lifeboat floundering toward the Somali coastline, Muse and his boys (for they are barely men) attract the full might of the US Navy. “There’s got to be something other than fishing and kidnapping people,” Phillips says to Muse while the shadow of a warship falls over them. “Maybe in America, Irish, maybe in America,” Muse shrugs.

This exchange may seem heavily loaded, but Abdi and Hanks handle it with compelling sincerity. At first, the role of Phillips doesn’t feel like too much of a stretch for Hanks: part Catch Me If You Can’s Carl Hanratty with its no-nonsense Bostonian bark, part Cast Away’s Chuck Noland, a clear-headed professional hurled into extreme calamity. But by the devastating (yet quiet and intimate) final scene, the differences are obvious and acute. Throughout his crisis, Phillips is a man running with a bowl of water, desperate not to spill a drop, desperate not to slow down. As well as suffering an ordeal, he is also experiencing a kind of alien encounter. Except, of course, he is no more or less human than those at the other end of the guns so regularly pressed into his face.

There is no hoary ‘we’re just the same, you and I...’ moment. His attackers are firmly separated from him by geography, culture and a generation, but there is desperation and a kind of naivety, carefully portrayed, on both sides. Just as Phillips can’t fathom how there is no alternative to fishing and piracy for these kids, the pirates themselves fail to accept that, no, everything is not going to be okay.


Verdict
Both Greengrass and Hanks are on award-deserving form in a riveting, emotionally complex and hugely intelligent dramatisation of a real-life ordeal.


Reviewed by Dan Jolin

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Captain Phillips
Empire Star Rating

tp://www.imdb.com/title/tt1535109/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1]Capt ain Phillipsaul Greengrass` new film tells the true story of the hijack of an American cargo ship by Somalian pirates off the coast of Somalia. Because of the way it is shot, that we are used too by now thanks to the Bourne franchise, it looks like you as the audience really are a part of the action. That adds extra tension to te film, that grows towards the end with an evergrowing speed. Hanks is, especially in the second part, very go... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by TheGodfather at 21:38, 17 February 2014 | Report This Post


Great

Really enjoyed this film, maybe dragged a little in the middle but the last 5 minutes were devastating. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by 7eke at 14:00, 21 January 2014 | Report This Post


RE: Captain Phillips

The latest film from the ridiculously consistent and brilliant Paul Greengrass depicts the harrowing real-life events which took place off the coast of Somalia in 2009. It’s a fine fit for the acclaimed British director with its intense personal confrontations, sociopolitical leanings and against-the-odds drama and Greengrass takes to the material like a duck to water. The story concerns Captain Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks) who, in the film’s early scenes, is marked out as an efficient fam... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Biggus at 22:43, 15 December 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Captain Phillips

The captain BirdsEye fish finger adverts were a more accurate depiction of maritime heroics. Next. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by spamandham at 21:35, 11 December 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Captain Phillips

I must say I fairly enjoyed Captain Philips, although it did feel too long from time to time. Tom Hanks is great and I wouldn't be surprised if he got an Oscar nomination. Paul Greengrass handled the direction masterfully (I rarely enjoy shaky-cam, but in Captain Philips I had absolutely no problems with it) and the Somali pirates characters were surprisingly well portrayed and acted. Like I said, Captain Philips is an enjoyable movie, but I fear I'll never re-watch it since it gets rather ted... More

Posted by DorianS at 20:03, 08 December 2013 | Report This Post


RE: ONE OF THE BEST FILMS OF THE YEAR!!!!

Tom Hanks tries to survive not on an island, this time in the sea. Watched it last night and thought it was absolutely gripping. Had no expectation before I watched it, and then I felt the hype and excitement from the beginning to the end. So real! ... More

Posted by m_er at 17:34, 08 December 2013 | Report This Post


ONE OF THE BEST FILMS OF THE YEAR!!!!

TOM HANKS WAS AWESOME!!!!!! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Ciaran McDaid at 09:30, 25 November 2013 | Report This Post


"No tricks, Irish."

Captain Phillips is an astonishing film and it features one of Tom Hanks best performances ever. An amazing achievement. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Jericho117 at 07:39, 22 November 2013 | Report This Post


"There's got to be something other than being a fisherman or kidnapping people."

Immediate, visceral and absorbing. Director Paul Greengrass has crafted a work of profound emotional impact, guiding the magnificent Tom Hanks through an Oscar-worthy performance. Captain Phillips may not be perfect, but it is an experience... and you will be moved. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by movienut707 at 00:50, 22 November 2013 | Report This Post


"There's got to be something other than being a fisherman or kidnapping people."

Immediate, visceral and absorbing. Director Paul Greengrass has crafted a work of profound emotional impact, guiding the magnificent Tom Hanks through an Oscar-worthy performance. Captain Phillips may not be perfect, but it is an experience... and you will be moved. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by movienut707 at 00:50, 22 November 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Good film....

Puppet review of Captain Phillips - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vB4agBQS6vk ... More

Posted by antvent85 at 12:34, 30 October 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Good film....

Loved this. Possibly my favourite film so far this year. ... More

Posted by jcthefirst at 13:38, 28 October 2013 | Report This Post


Good film....

...just a shame it's all Hollywood bullsh*t! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Bobby TwoTimes at 11:19, 23 October 2013 | Report This Post


Good film....

...just a shame it's all Hollywood bullsh*t! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Bobby TwoTimes at 11:18, 23 October 2013 | Report This Post


They're not here to fish........

Just come back from seeing this Film, and it is a brilliant roller coaster of emotions from start to finish, and SO tense too, and probably Tom Hanks best performance ever, the last scenes are absolutely amazing and its hard NOT to feel yourself getting swept away by what he has gone through to get to that point. Best Film of the Year IMHO, and I can see Tom Hanks getting another Oscar here...........: ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by n13roy at 18:15, 22 October 2013 | Report This Post


COMPELLING DRAMA!!!

Nail bitingly intense Sea Drama!! Based upon actual events, director Paul Greengrass expertly recreates the crises aboard the US container ship Maersk Alabama as Capitan Richard Phillips and his crew are taken hostage by Somali pirates in April 2009. The tension never let's up in this nail biting drama as we witness in precision detail the events that lead up to the boat siege,..we are introduced to the Somali crew of desperate 'fishermen' picking their squad for the sea ambush all lean m... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Ramone87 at 22:01, 21 October 2013 | Report This Post


RE: the truth is out there?

Straight from the director's mouth rather than an 'anonymous source': "I’m glad you asked that! I saw those stories too, based upon an “anonymous crew member”. Here are the facts. Shortly after the Mersk Alabama incident was successfully resolved, and Captain Phillips returned home safely, some members of the crew sued Mersk Corporation claiming they had been put in harm’s way. They also alleged that Captain Phillips had ignored warnings to stay away from the coast of Somalia. When we star... More

Posted by FoxDhoj at 20:21, 20 October 2013 | Report This Post


Unbelievably good

It surpassed my high expectations. Has the same kind of knot-inducing, stomach-churning tension that United 93 invoked (although, not quite as strong). But Hanks has a moment towards the end that killed me. And I absolutely can't believe that people STILL overly judge/review a film before they've seen it!!! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by tysmuse at 19:35, 20 October 2013 | Report This Post


Hanks stakes his claim for the 2014 Oscar

Has anyone ever seen a tour de force of acting from a male lead like this in even the last 10 years? The film is fantastic and directed wonderfully, but my word, Hanks' performance is simply sublime. I challenge anyone not to feel every crazy emotion that Captain Phillips is feeling in the last 15 minutes of this movie, it's simply astounding. If you can't feel your stomach churn with this character then, check your pulse, you're probably dead. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Azzurro06 at 14:39, 20 October 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Captain Phillips

During the initial sequences of Captain Phillips, you realise you’re definitely in the territory of director Paul Greengrass as the film’s establishment of its two leads is similar to the beginning of Greenngrass’ 9/11 masterpiece United 93, in which we see the start of two worlds colliding, leading to one critical and political outcome. Appointed as the captain of the MV Maersk Alabama, Richard Philips (Tom Hanks) and his new crew sail their cargo through the Gulf of Aden to Mombasa. Sail... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by R W at 18:11, 19 October 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Captain Phillips

L: Dr Lenera Shakycam is a abomination: it's pointless, stupid, unjustifiable, illogical kes me feel physical sick or have a bloody headache, and has no place in cinema except Found Footage. I will say that Greengrass did it better than most directors, up to Green Zone, where it got almost unbearable, and it sounds like it'll be the same with this film. Well, handheld camera work is like everything else in film: if it's employed sensibly it can be effective in creating a sense of docu... More

Posted by MonsterCat at 13:10, 19 October 2013 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

L: Dr Lenera m is a abomination: it's pointless, stupid, unjustifiable, illogical d makes me feel physical sick or have a bloody headache, no place in cinema Found Footage. I will say that Greengrass did it better than most directors, up to Green Zone, where it got almost unbearable, sounds like it'll be the same with this film.ote] I respectfully & strongly disagree. And it isn't.... ... More

Posted by Qwerty Norris at 11:38, 19 October 2013 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

Oscar nomination for Hanks? ... More

Posted by CriticNumberOne at 15:44, 18 October 2013 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

L: Hood_Man L: Dr Lenera L: Qwerty Norris And enough of this tiresome shaky-cam complaining. It's what Barry Ackroyd does - and it's completely appropriate for what he shoots . Not every film can work effectively with static composition (and we're at sea for goodness sake!). ote] Shakycam is a abomination: it's pointless, stupid, unjustifiable, illogical kes me feel physical sick or have a bloody headache, and has no place in cinema except Found Footage. I will s... More

Posted by Dr Lenera at 14:54, 18 October 2013 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

But it's at sea!!? ... More

Posted by CriticNumberOne at 13:47, 18 October 2013 | Report This Post


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