Starring: Tom Hanks, Catherine Keener, Barkhad Abdi, Michael Chernus (Rated M – 134 min)
With the upcoming award season looming (I can’t wait), here is a new contender. International sea piracy is a tricky subject and unfortunately very real, it is now also an impressive movie based on the true account of Captain Richard Phillips being hijacked from his freighter in 2009. As the strict commanding officer, it is a testament to the brilliance of Tom Hanks to keep Phillips grounded, believable, terrified, crafty and honourable at the same time, all the time. He is no Forrest Gump.
Somali pirates are rife 100 miles off the Mombasa, Kenya coast and are usually demanded to perform it from elders for financial gain towards their poverty stricken population. When these particular pirates were first spotted coming towards the 17,000 ton Maersk Alabama container-ship, Phillips alerted authorities but they dismissed them as fisherman. Wrong, life is a series of moments, this is not a drill. The skiffs approached closer with gun-toting rebels climbing onboard the vessel to take control demanding money. The majority of the crew are hiding out below decks within engine room darkness prepared for retaliation.
Pressure mounts when the amateur terrorists do not get what they want and take Captain Phillips hostage off board in the emergency life-pod. They took the wrong Captain. He outwits the mercenaries in some ways using only mind-games, even when bound and gagged bleeding on the floor of the bobbing life-pod.
Without giving too much tactical secrets away of the story, let’s just say the pirates have their days numbered negotiating with Navy Seals. Amazing intense scenes, emotional conflict, heart and human complacency is all on show here. There are a few slow periods to illustrate isolation but the finale has Phillips openly vulnerable, Tears amongst the audience is inevitable. Another Oscar nomination for Mr. Hanks is guaranteed for that scene alone. The Somali cast are non-actors found after a global search, leader of the Pirates played by Barkhad Abdi, with his protruding teeth and gangly body is all untapped talent, in a scary way.
Shane A. Bassett