Tom Hanks is back at sea and this time he has bigger problems than losing his pet volleyball.
Hanks plays Richard Phillips, Captain of the U.S. container ship Maersk Alabama which was hijacked by Somali pirates in 2009. The screenplay was adapted from Phillips’ memoir A Captains Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs, and Dangerous Days at Sea. Director Paul Greengrass brings this story to life in vivid fashion using handheld camera work to perfection. The mounting sense of tension as the events unfold is truly immersive. I was both relieved and impressed as the film moved on that the shaky cam never felt like a gimmick.
Tom Hanks delivers one of the best performances of his career, understated yet powerful as he brings Phillips to life on the screen, showing us the courage of an average man that finds himself and his crew in the worst situation they could imagine. I have a feeling we will be hearing the name Tom Hanks a lot during award season. Perhaps even more impressive though is Barkhad Abdi, who plays Muse, the leader of the band of pirates who have taken control of the Alabama. I was shocked to find myself with a sense of sympathy for Muse and his crew as we come to learn that these men have few options and nothing to lose.
Greengrass deserves credit for showing a glimpse in to the Somali culture that drives the pirates to sea. Adbi delivers a powerhouse of a performance, showing Muse to be determined, desperate, terrifying and most surprisingly of all human. I never thought going in that I would feel an odd sense of empathy for the ‘bad guys’ but that is exactly what happens.