Captain Phillips review

British director Paul Greengrass is no stranger to a hijacking film. In 2006 he brought us the gut-wrenching United 93, about the ill-fated 9/11 flight that crashed in Pennsylvania. Jump seven years and we have Captain Phillips (partly shot at Longcross Studios), a true story about Somali pirates who attacked an unarmed US container ship and took its captain hostage. SCROLL DOWN TO WATCH THE TRAILER
 

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The opening gala of the BFI's London Film Festival, it stars a goateed Tom Hanks as captain Richard Phillips, a man with many worries - his son isn't doing well at school, his new crew members are lazy, and what's more, he has concerns about the vessel's security.

As soon as Phillips starts to take new security measures out at sea in the Indian Ocean (off the coast of Malta to be precise, where 3/4 of the film was shot), it's not long before the ship is under attack from the gang of Somali pirates, led by the young Muse (Barkhad Abdirahman making his debut here), who is more concerned with gaining respect from his community.

What ensues is a Phillips/Muse stand-off and a rescue mission, all in the safe hands of a filmmaker who knows how to make things look and feel real. There's Greengrass' familiar shaky cam; frantic communications taking place in control towers, and lots of tension to keep you on the edge of your seat.

The performances are top notch. As expected, Hanks does the film justice, but it's not until the end of the film where he packs the punches, showing real vulnerability. It's also refreshing to see the 'bad guys' played by unknown actors, giving a sense of realism (none of them had any acting experience before this film).

The only thing that let the film down from me was that I didn't feel much threat from the hijackers - they only really ever unleash verbal warnings and sometimes look rather wide-eyed - unlike United 93, for example, where you knew from the offset the horrifying lengths the hijackers would go to to get what they want. It's only during the movie's third act when you genuinely believe that someone's life could be in danger from Muse and his men.

It's during this third part that the action starts to heat up: Navy SEALs are called in, Phillips is held captive by the pirates in a lifeboat (the interior was shot at Longcross Studios) and more gunfire is unleashed.


Final verdict

A perfectly enjoyable thriller with some stellar performances.


Captain Phillips is released on 18 October.


Production credits
Director: Paul Greengrass
Producer: Michael De Luca, Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti
Production Manager: Sam Breckman
Studio: Longcross Studios