'Captain Phillips' review: Never once lost at sea

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To many, this film would be just another biopic whose subject indulges in acts of heroism. To an extent, this stereotype holds firm in the film Captain Phillips, which tells the tale of the skipper of a cargo ship pitted against a group of Somali pirates.

There is nothing drastically earth-shattering about this movie that ought to draw the attention of the average film enthusiast, but neither are most other movies today. Captain Phillips, however, shines most where several other of the same genre fail to pick up-down to earth realism, coupled with a near-perfect pace for its type.

Every scene in Phillips unfolds itself with impeccable straightforwardness, with an no-frills linear timeline that one comes to appreciate when watching a biopic.

Paul Greengrass (of The Bourne Ultimatum fame) does a fine job as helmsman of the film, with crisp attention to detail with respect to plot elements, and ensures that the film does not in any way deviate from the main storyline; Barry Ackroyd does a great job as the man behind the camera, and avoids anything that distracts the viewer from the goings-on in the plot and gradually changes the atmosphere of the reel from the bright openness of the high seas to the grim darkness of captivity.

As to the performances of the lead actors in the movie, there is absolutely no question. Tom Hanks delivers one of those rare roles where one can see only the person portrayed by the actor and not the actor himself, right from the worried Captain in the first half of the movie to the desperate captive in the second, where his skills as an actor are truly displayed for the viewer to thoroughly enjoy, all with the aura of uncertainty one would expect of a man who is a victim of said misfortune.

Barkhad Abdi, who makes his debut as the Abduwali Muse, captain of the pirate skiff performs brilliantly, as a man who is aware of his inexperience as a pirate but makes up for it with his (relatively) calm demeanour and controlled ruthlessness, and easily makes for one of the best debuts of the year.

Other members of the supporting case also perform admirably, most notably Mahat Ali as Elmi, a teenaged pirate who plays little more than a prominent fifth wheel to the boarding party.

The film focuses centrally on a sense of silent excitement, with an air of anticipation that viewers unwittingly find themselves in despite knowing how it’s going to end anyway, a characteristic that Greengrass manages to pull off very nicely.

The plot may feel dry for some, though; a film such as this, even if not meant to be unpredictable with sudden plot twists and revelations, could leave viewers pampered by the complexities of the recent plethora of such movies less entertained than what they would otherwise expect.

Overall, Phillips delivers a highly satisfying experience as an excellent blend of great acting, direction, script and cinematography, and is well worth your time and money.

-Ed