Captain Phillips (2013)

There is a simple explanation for this film’s title. They could have called it Pirate Attack! or Unwelcome Visitors, US Fleet to the Rescue! or some such. However, by naming it after (don’t get me started on the whole ‘named after …’ ‘named for …’ issue) Tom Hanks’ character they acknowledge that this is largely a one-hander.

The film is an exciting and engaging thriller thanks almost entirely to Mr Hanks’ supremely talented performance as the captain of a container ship attacked by Somali pirates. Just to make sure, director Paul Greengrass slathers on a very thick soundtrack guaranteed to get the heart pumping, but he should have been a lot more selective in the editing, to reduce the running time from a bloated 134 minutes. If you cannot tell a story in 90 minutes, go back and cut some more!

Furthermore, in recruiting unknown and inexperienced actors to play the pirates, Greengrass chose authentic appearance at the expense of convincing performance. The result is that many scenes feel like improvisations or dress rehearsals, and an uninspiring screenplay does little to develop and explore the characters and their relationships. Without wishing to give anything away, the final scene deserves special mention for jarring, unlikely dialogue.

It is however refreshing to watch a movie which takes some time over the details, and the absence of a clash-of-personalities cliché between the rescuing commander and his number two is especially welcome.

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