Captain Phillips


Captain Phillips is a very well executed film. There’s suspense galore, a gripping story, and a great performance by Tom Hanks. I liked the film, but for some reason I’m not over the moon about it like a lot of people are. I thought it dragged a bit in the middle, and there were some unbelievable things along the way. I can’t really fault anybody for liking this film more than I did, but for some reason it didn’t really get to me on a personal level, and that’s the main reason why I’m not going to come away heavily praising it like most.

Captain Rich Phillips (Tom Hanks) is starting off on a journey around the horn of Africa, captaining the cargo ship MV Maersk Alabama. As they are coming near to Somalia, Somali pirates pursue and board the ship with weapons, and take control. A game of cat and mouse develops on board, and as an exchange is being made, the pirates leave the ship with Captain Phillips in a life boat. Military help is long in coming, but it does come, leading to a very intense last half hour or so. The film was based on true events from 2009, which I know hardly anything about, so if the film is inaccurate there’s no way I would know about it.

Tom Hanks

The first thing I would like to emphasize here is the incredible performance of Tom Hanks. Hanks is probably still the most popular actor in America, even though his heyday in terms of awards was back in the early nineties. To echo basically everybody (except the Academy it seems) Hanks is very very good here. He disappears into the role, even though his character is not exactly vibrant, he makes Phillips memorable. I can’t emphasize enough how good he is in the last half hour of the film (more on that in spoiler section); he kept all his panic and emotion in for most of the movie, but in the end he just lets go and it’s heartbreaking and very powerful. Barhad Abdi, who plays the lead Somali pirate and did get a nomination, is also very good, especially as it’s his first time acting. His character doesn’t really get the depth that Hanks’ does though, you can feel it’s there in some scenes but it is never fully brought to the surface as Hanks’ is in the final scenes of the film.

On the negative side of things, I don’t know if it actually happened this way, but the pirates first show up when the Alabama crew is running drills in case pirates show up. It just rubbed me the wrong way that the pirates would appear exactly when they were all preparing for pirates to appear. It felt way too much like a movie at that point, like of course the pirates would show up at this exact moment. Phillips had been reading about pirates on the internet in the scene before, so all of it felt like very manipulative, like “audience, make sure you feel dread that pirates are coming, because they are!” However, these problems were alleviated once the pirates actually started attacking. Even though I was beginning to loose interest in the middle (I can’t even remember why), the film had me right back on board at the ending.



Another thing that I really can’t emphasize enough is how awesome the ending of this movie is. The military finally shows up, and we get an aircraft carrier, a hostage negotiator, and Navy SEALS! Captain Phillips is in the lifeboat with the pirates, and Muse (the leader, played by Abdi) is convinced to come aboard the Navy ship. The pirates start to get very skittish without proper leadership, and there are a few more injuries. Phillips tries to swim away, but it doesn’t work, and he is becoming even more desperate. The negotiator takes another crack at the pirates, no dice, and Captain Phillips looks like he’s actually about to die for real this time, so the snipers just take out all of the pirates (minus Muse, who’s with the Navy) just like that. It’s shocking to see the situation diffused so quickly. It just made me think about the might of the US military, because it seems like we could just shoot all those pirates at any time and we were holding back just to be nice. Living in the US, sometimes it’s hard to imagine being a part of the most powerful country in the world because I’m just a lowly college student with lots of debt and bad grades, but wow. That was crazy. I wished they had sort of explored that a bit more with the aftermath, but I realize they were trying to tell the personal story of Phillips so that wasn’t really going to happen. Also I loved the irony with Muse going back to America to stand trial, when he previously stated that all he wanted to do in the first place was go to New York and buy a car.


So, I may have liked the last half hour way more than everything that lead up to it, but still Captain Phillips is a pretty good film. I’m not convinced it deserves a best picture nomination over the likes of Inside Llewyn Davis for example, but still, it’s an enjoyable and suspenseful film that I can’t really see anybody having any major issues with. I definitely think Hanks got snubbed of an Oscar nomination, as he was really great here and this is the best I’ve seen from in a while, maybe ever. Even though I have some problems with it and am not really hurrying out to see it again, I can see why it’s a favorite of many.


“Captain Phillips, can you hear me?!”

Long story short: 3/4

For Further Reading:

Terry Malloy’s Pigeon Coop review
Flixchatter review
PG Cooper’s Movie Reviews review


12 responses to “Captain Phillips

  1. Great review Hunter! I think I’ve shared my view of Inside Llewyn Davis. I’m not disappointed that it didn’t get nominated for Best Picture, but I’m glad this one did. It could’ve easily be a run of the mill biopic of sort but somehow Greengrass made this a thrilling and tremendously intense film, plus the performances are ace.

    • Thanks! Yeah, I get why this and some others probably got in before Inside Llewyn Davis (more accessible and not as depressing) but I still really like that film. This felt like a choice that was a lot safer to me.
      However, that doesn’t mean I didn’t like the film! The performances are good, especially Hanks in the last few scenes or so. He was amazing. Still surprised he didn’t get nominated.

  2. Ruth disagreed with you, Hunter. I’ll agree. I think this features amazing performances and is Best Picture worthy the first half but then falls off once they leave the Alabama and get on the life boat. The last five minutes are astonishing, but I think it loses steam when the navy shows up (which is where we disagree).

    All of which means it isn’t as good as Llewyn Davis, Fruitvale Station, Short Term 12 or a handful of other 2013 movies.

    • Ha ha thanks 🙂 Yeah I feel like started to loose interest somewhere around where they first get in the life boat. You didn’t have the game of cat and mouse on the ship anymore, just a hostage situation that stagnated for a while. I think I probably started to get involved more again when the Navy showed up because it was the entrance of somebody who was going to change the circumstances.
      Haven’t seen Short Term 12, but I had some problems with Fruitvale Station. It felt way too overly manipulative to me, and that generally bothers me in movies. I’m not sure if I would put it above this one or not, but I don’t think either of them are going to make it into my top ten anyway, so it’s kind of a moot point.

      • You aren’t the first to suggest Fruitvale is too manipulative. I don’t tend to agree, but we’re talking about Captain Phillips aside, so I’ll let that go. 🙂

        Captain Phillips’ plot picks back up with the navy’s arrival. But I didn’t care so much about the plot – I cared about the captain and Muse and wanted to stay with the characters. The second half is all plot based, and I thought the shift less effective than it might have been.

        • Wow I didn’t think of that way but you are so right. It’s strange that I didn’t feel the same way as you because normally, I would like to learn more about the characters and care less about the plot. I feel like they weren’t giving us enough about the characters for me to get interested probably, and that’s why I felt that it dropped off.

  3. Good review Hunter. Definitely my favorite thriller of the year, as well as one of my favorites in general. It doesn’t matter what story it is that he’s taking control of, Paul Greengrass can make it the most suspenseful experience you’ll ever have.

    • Thanks! I didn’t really see any other thrillers this year, unless you count Prisoners and Trance, which I don’t know if I would. Regardless, I’ll definitely agree with you about the suspense, even though it lags in the middle.

  4. Nice work Hunter, you’ve got some good points about the middle third of the film — I think I would make the argument that there is just so much adrenaline and intensity throughout this. . .what, 2-plus hour movie?. . .that the audience eventually just gets exhausted! But then everything snaps back into focus when *ahem* spoiler Captain Phillips gets rescued. The last ten minutes were nuts, I wholeheartedly agree

    • I thought that too when I was watching it. I really did get exhausted, which had this strange effect of making me think the movie was longer than it was. But yeah, definitely back on board for the last half hour or so of the film.

  5. Great review and thanks for the link back! It’s a proper good thriller this one. Personally I’d have given hanks the Oscar nom and not had this in the Best Picture category. That last scene with Hanks being given a medical is just a phenomenal piece of acting.

    • Thanks and you’re welcome! I think that’s how I would have done it as well. His acting was definitely a highlight of the film, it’s too bad he missed out on a nomination.

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