Saturday, October 12, 2013

‘Captain Phillips’ fights off pirates

By James Colt Harrison

Sony Pictures has a big hit on its hands with the heart-thumping thriller ‘Captain Phillips’ starring Tom Hanks.  Based on the true story of Captain Richard Phillips and his book A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS, and Dangerous Days at Sea, screenwriter Billy Ray has turned a world-wide event into an exciting, absorbing thriller of the first order.

Somalia is a war-torn, ravaged country with no real government nor laws. People were starving in 2009, had no prospects of ever bettering their lives, and the men were desperate. Many men resorted to piracy on the seas, holding ships and people for millions of dollars in ransom. Some made it work; others didn’t.

Captain Phillips was guiding a 17,000 ton ship for the largest container ship operator in the world, the Maersk Company. We have all seen their ships at one time or another. He was sailing off the coast of Somalia heading toward Mombasa, Kenya. The Somali pirates were in a small boat and attempted to take the ship. Every measure was used to dissuade them, including using water cannons to turn the away. The pirates managed to get aboard the ship through a clever manoever.

In order to save his crew from harm, Phillips ordered them below to a locked room where he felt they would be safe. The Somali’s were the “skinniest and scariest looking human beings on the planet.” In reality, Barkhad Abdi, 28, was found in a talent search in Minneapolis! A native of Somalia, he fit the bill and turned out to give an absorbing and terrifying performance as the top guy in the militant group that boarded the ship. In an interview with Stephen Galloway The Hollywood Reporter, Abdi said, “I was so excited about meeting Tom.” Abdi is a great movie fan. “(Director) Paul (Greengrass) took us on the side and was like ‘OK, you guys are not going to see Tom until we do the first scene where you meet in the movie,’  “ Abdi and his fellow Somalians were a little disappointed, but realized this would add authenticity to their scenes.

A five-day drama ensued when the pirates took Captain Phillips hostage in a small lifeboat. By this time the U.S Navy had gotten wind of the piracy and was bearing down on the small lifeboat and the outgunned pirates. It was world news and was on television every night. The story made headlines in all the major city newspapers. The Somali pirates were now famous, but could they get away with it?

Tom Hanks does some of his best acting in years. In a scene with him in total shock and terrified for his life, he is truly touching and moving in a tour de force performance without dialogue. He will, no doubt, be nominated as Best Actor come Oscar® time.

The film is great entertainment from director Paul Greenglass (“The Bourne Ultimatum”), as his usual style. Scary, heart-wrenching, terrifying, thrilling, and ultimately satisfying, the film is one of the better offerings this year. Go see it!

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