His vulnerability is second to none.
Captain Phillips opens with Hanks and his wife (Catherine Keener) driving to the airport to see the Captain off on another assignment.
“Be safe,” she says as he walks into the terminal. It’s a moment we can all relate to, and a wise human (pedestrian?) storytelling moment for what the audience knows to be a harrowing tale.
Then the story zooms around the globe to a tiny impoverished Somalian village where we meet Skinny (Barkhad Abdi). Skinny is a local “fisherman” who jumps when the regional warlord commands a pirate party to go out and bring him a ship. Shabby economics dictate that to not go along is to not feed your family – or worse.
While we cannot relate to the circumstances, it is still a scene that gives a human face to an otherwise entirely unsympathetic subculture of degenerate thieves.
What follows next is the inevitable hijacking of Captain Phillips’ enormous commercial cargo ship, an event that he knew in his bones was coming. There is a haunting foreshadowing moment with the Captain reading a Maersk safety disclosure online regarding Barbary Coast pirates whose “…audacity and operational range has intensified.”
The seizing of the ship is very well filmed and edited, not surprising considering the resume of director Paul Greengrass (Bourne Supremacy & United 93); the intensity taut and the action well-paced. Until….
…it lands in a static gear of redundant back and forth of leveraging demands and risk/reward choices made by Hanks and his relatively useless and somewhat cowardly crew.
With an AK-47 pointed at his face and his crew splintered and hiding in the engine room, Captain Phillips maintains his stripes. “Stick together and we’ll be alright.”
It’s a noble film about leadership, teamwork, and courage. It just stalls a bit.
Still, Captain Phillips is a voyage worth taking – mostly due to the star magnitude and presence of two-time Oscar winner Hanks, delivering one of the most genuine performances of his brilliant career.
Hanks was perfectly cast here and he is sure to receive yet another Oscar nomination.
Memo to Somali pirates: You’ve been kidnapping and terrorizing innocent people for centuries, get it through your thick skulls which somehow hover above your scrawny necks – you’re no match for our Navy Seals.