CAPTAIN PHILLIPS (2013)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 2 hours 14 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Sustained Intense Sequences of Menace, some Violence with Bloody Images, and for Substance Use

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Directed by: Paul Greengrass

Written by: Billy Ray

Starring: Tom Hanks, Barkhard Abdi, Barkhard Abdirahman, Faysal Ahmed, Mahat M. Ali, Michael Chernus & Catherine Keener

In April 2009, the Maersk Alabama became the first American ship to be hijacked by pirates in nearly two centuries. The ordeal was no doubt a traumatizing one and as such things go, a thriller was released in October 2013 detailing the events. Though the validity is questionable on some parts, it doesn’t make CAPTAIN PHILLIPS any less nerve-rackingly intense.

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Richard Phillips is the captain of a cargo ship. His latest trip is taking him around the horn of Africa, close to the coast of Somalia. The warnings of possible piracy situations are everywhere and Captain Phillips does everything in his power to keep their surroundings safe and secure. Alas, it is not enough. A group of four pirates hook onto the side of the cargo ship and make their way on board. Taking the Phillips by gun point and searching the ship for other potential hostages.

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The style in which the film is shot looks grainy and feels handheld for the most part. While that sounds like a terrible thing when I describe it like that, it benefits the rip-roaring intensity of the film tenfold. The build up to the actual hijacking is well done with some foreshadowing and a look into the lives of the pirates themselves. Any other film could just have the Somalis come off as one-dimensional villains, but CAPTAIN PHILLIPS shows both sides of the coin. Does this make them sympathetic when they’re holding men hostage and threatening to kill them? Absolutely not, but it does give far more insight into the background of where these desperate pirates come from.

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While there aren’t many faces that stand out, Tom Hanks is the big draw here. His performance is breathtaking as Richard Phillips, who does his best to survive, even as the circumstances become more dire. The realistic approach to the film makes it all the more brutal and intense during moments. I was surprised this movie walked away with a PG-13 rating, especially after one moment of heart wrenching brutality that left me clutching my arm rests.

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So the film is damn near perfect, but what holds it back is actually the length of two-plus hours. This is a movie that could have used a trim here and there. The final 20 minutes of the movie feel stretched and this is especially true of one scene that seemed to go on for far too long until it almost got monotonous. This isn’t so much a movie as it is an experience though. You feel like you’re surviving the horrific situation (made all the more terrifying that it really happened) alongside Captain Phillips.

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Even though the film is a tad too long and has one scene that seemed to go on forever, CAPTAIN PHILLIPS is a very rewarding experience that offers some food for thought about the piracy situation, the terrible condition of Somalia that drives men to do this awful deeds purely for the money, and it will leave you feeling a bit chilled long after the film is over. This is up there with RUSH as an almost perfect film to come out of this year that was a bit flawed due to some so-so pacing at points. CAPTAIN PHILLIPS still comes highly recommended!

Grade: A

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