Adapted from the memoir of Richard Phillips, Paul Greengrass’s Captain Phillips is a powerfully and emotional drama.
Tom Hanks plays the titular Phillips, captain of the container ship Maersk Alabama, who is taken hostage after his vessel is raided by modern-day Somali pirates.
First aboard his own ship when hiding and protecting his crew, and later when held by the pirates in a lifeboat, Phillips shows remarkable courage despite a growing likelihood of death.
The first part of the film was shot on a sister ship to the Maersk Alabama, with the later sections shot on a full-size replica of the life boat on which Phillips spends several increasingly tense days.
Paul Greengrass pairs the claustrophobic and unglamorous settings with light-touch, simple direction and plenty of close-ups, giving the film a distinct documentary feel.
For most of the 120+ minute running time the action and dialogue are quietly understated with Hanks avoiding the shouty grandstanding of so many hostage films.
There are no lectures on the superiority of the US, no monologues on America’s values, just the quiet words of a man seeking to sooth the tempers of his captors in order to survive.
The film is so superficially passive that it’s only as its final harrowing moments play out that you finally realise the bond Greengrass and Hanks have conspired to forge between the audience and Phillips.
Even the most stoic of audiences will find themselves hard-pressed to avoid weeping as the story concludes.
Out Friday 18th October 2013