Richard Phillips

Tom Hanks

Editor’s note: Kate’s review of Captain Phillips originally ran during this year’s NYFF, but we’re re-running it now as the film opens in theatrical release today. Side note, it’s the best film currently playing in wide release. Go see it. Early on in Paul Greengrass’ Captain Phillips, the eponymous Captain Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks) reads an email advisory from Maersk, the multinational business conglomerate that owns his vessel, that includes detailed information about incidents of high seas piracy in the exact area his Maersk Alabama happens to be sailing through on its way to Kenya. Phillips is already aware of the risks, and he’s taken precautions – later that day, he’ll even request his crew perform a series of safety drills – but all the warnings in the world won’t change his fate, and they certainly won’t remove the audience’s knowledge of what is coming. Based on the true story of the Maersk Alabama hijacking and the real Captain Phillips’ book on the subject, “A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS, and Dangerous Days at Sea,” Greengrass’ film is tasked with delivering a moderately fictionalized portrayal of a highly publicized event, and the final product is a wonderfully tension-filled and surprisingly even-handed version of events. Hanks excels in the leading role, effectively portraying an everyman trapped in extraordinary circumstances, and Greengrass’ action-savvy direction pairs perfectly with both his story and his lead actor.

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After leaving the Bourne franchise behind, Paul Greengrass made Green Zone (which might as well have been called The Bourne Historical Rewrite) and has been attempting to get his Martin Luther King, Jr film Memphis off the ground with Scott Rudin. As it turns out, Rudin may have something different in mind. According to Deadline Mogadishu, Greengrass has been offered the directing job for the Somali pirate movie based on Richard Phillips’s memoir “A Captain’s Duty.” The book chronicles his experience as the skipper of the Maersk Alabama, which was taken by Somali pirates. Phillips was held hostage before being rescued by Navy SEALs. Tom Hanks has signed on to star. This project has been percolating at the script phase for a year and a half, and there’s an honest question about whether the subject matter is all that compelling. At the very least, it’ll be culturally fascinating to see a boom in Navy SEAL movies coming out all around the same time, and Christmas Entertainment also has a Somali pirate movie called Dawn on the Gulf of Aden in development. Otherwise, the main question is how much shakier Greengrass’s camera would be on the open ocean.

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published: 11.21.2014
D
published: 11.21.2014
B+
published: 11.19.2014
C+
published: 11.19.2014
B-, C


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