Captain Phillips (12A)

Directed by Paul Greengrass
FACT, Liverpool
On general release from 18th October 2013

Reviewed by Colin Serjent

Unlike other Hollywood movies, which are usually littered with so-called A-list stars, this has top notch actor Tom Hanks in the lead role, with the rest of the cast complete unknowns to me.The other refreshing aspect of the movie is the use of non-actors in portraying the Somalian fishermen turned pirates, including an exemplary performance by Barkhad Abdi, called Muse, who plays the leader of the group.

This lack of identity with the actors lends this David versus Goliath conflict greater gravitas, and at times gives it an almost authentic documentary feel to the feature film.

David is represented by the four fishermen, coerced into piracy by ruthless Somalian gangmasters, while Goliath is the big bad monster, the USA, represented by immense naval power.

Only mentioned briefly in the film, but the point is made that fishermen's livelihoods have been ruined by the mass plundering of fish stock in that part of Africa by Western-based fleets.

The movie is based on true events, which took place in 2009. The US container ship Alabama was hijacked by the aforesaid outlaws and threatened with ransom demands. They then took Captain Phillips as a hostage and held him captive in a sealed lifeboat despatched from the ship.

What was bizarre was how easily they were able to board the huge ship. Armed only with AK 47 rifles the only resistance they met was the use of powerful water hoses. Despite the spate of hijackings there had been in this part of the world none of the ship's personnel possessed any arms to defend themselves.

Director Paul Greengrass then creates a particularly memorable scene to depict the US attempts to rescue Phillips. Two Navy frigates, an aircraft carrier, a sniper group and Seal Teams were pitted against the ragbag group of pirates, who were speeding towards the Somalian coast. The odds stacked against them were a bit uneven!

The only disappointing note of a enthralling film was the overblown, music by numbers, soundtrack, which perversely did not include any Somalian music. Looking at the credits I noticed Hans Zimmer was on board as musical adviser. Little wonder then that the music was so formulaic.

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