Title: Captain Phillips
Language: English, Somali
Genre: Adventure, Biography
Director: Paul Greengrass
Music: Henry Jackman
Cinematography: Barry Ackroyd
Mahat M. Ali
A Hollywood-produced, politically correct, big studio vehicle, helmed by a world-class action artisan Paul Greengrass, stars the most revered actor of his generation, Tom Hanks as the titular captain, whose screen image is a paragon of an orthodox ordinary Joe alike American hero, in this seafaring hijack inspired by a true event in 2009 at Somali waters. It is a retaliation of the vicious circle from the poverty-stricken to the hegemony which sardonically offers them the alms and simultaneously capitalizes on their natural resources and weaponry merchandizing, so it is not easy to hold a phlegmatic perspective to watch the man-made terror without deploring the sad truth how things have ended up like this, for sure we should inveigh against the piracy felony, all the same we should also see through the phenomena and ferret out the nitty-gritty which induces the atrocious tragedies. We have both parties to blame and need a soul-searching examination on our own conscience.
Greengrass adopts an engaging procedure to re-enact the white-knuckle happening of how the ship is seized by four Somali pirates (leading by a scrawny Muse, played by the first-time actor, now Oscar-nominee Abdi), parallels the narrative from both sides, playing mind games and a hide-and-seek inside the vessel, this is the first half, culminated with the pirates take captain Phillips as the hostage in a lifeboat, floating back the Somali. Apparently from the hindsight, it is a preventable incident, considering it is a US cargo ship, no one on board is equipped with any firearms at all? From a gun frenzy country where campus shooting is rampant, it is quite implausible, but sometimes the truth is as simple as that, the pirates’ boarding process is rough and ready, clearly the affluent corporate which owns the ship skimps on its defense system, although they are fully aware of the potential peril could happen anytime. Otherwise, there would be no big deal to defeat four sea marauders (one is barely a child) even they’re equipped with AK-18.
Anyway, the second half, Captain Phillips is held captive within a lifeboat with the pirates on the billowy sea, since then, the film heavily hinges on Hank’s performance to emanate the brewing desperation during the so-called “negotiation” between US rescue team (SEAL, frogmen are all standby) and the cornered pirates four. It is a precious platform to let Hanks finally have something extraordinary to offer, he completes it with consummate precision and sublimates the predictable fallout of the false hope. Unfortunately due to a crammed year with sterling candidates, Hanks is left out of the nomination list, quite an upsetting snub, but he plays a real person who lacks for a distinctive character except he is under an extreme situation, not showy enough is the detrimental disadvantage. Abdi is the MVP among the pirates four, not as irritable and impatient as the hackneyed short-fuse Najee (Ahmed), he is a human being with flesh and blood, he is the one captain Phillips can relate to under such circumstances, all diversities aside, basically they both work for their respective bosses and want to finish their jobs with minimal casualties. His bold final move can be interpreted as a smart judgment call, his American dream ironically fulfills in a different way, at least he can be plumb free of his ill-destined fate.
Nominated for 6 Oscars including BEST PICTURE (both Hanks and Greengrass are brutally snubbed here), CAPTAIN PHILLIPS is at best an unbiased recount of a man’s individual struggle during a hanging-by-a-thread ride, and at worst, it is an unimaginative hostage story with jejune perpetrators wield weapons and demand unrealistic ransom, no one can beat the principled USS army, do you get the message?