Critics' review: Captain Phillips is a 'time bomb of a film'

  • Tom Hanks plays the troubled captain in Captain Phillips.

    Tom Hanks plays the troubled captain in Captain Phillips.

  • Boats set out to attack the Captain's ship.

    Boats set out to attack the Captain's ship.

  • Captain Phillips' ship sails.

    Captain Phillips' ship sails.

  • Water canons out.

    Water canons out.

  • An attack underway!

    An attack underway!

  • The ship unloads?

    The ship unloads?

Paul Greengrass' Captain Phillips is a film with a lot of latitude. Based on the true story of the 2009 pirate attack on cargo ship Maersk Alabama off the Somalian coast, the film paints a compelling picture of a captain trying to protect his crew in troubled waters.

The critics seem to have loved this real-life sea adventure with an almost childlike enthusiasm. While Tom Hanks is the popular favorite, Somalian actor Barkhad Abdi is also being praised for his stellar performance.

Christy Lemire gushes over Hanks' acting prowess on her website, "The entire performance is one of the greatest in Hanks’ prolific, varied career — a role that gives him a massive arc and the opportunity to show great range...What Hanks does is extraordinary because it’s so subtle: He’s the hardworking everyman who becomes an accidental hero, but he also must remain accessible as he serves as our guide through this harrowing world. He has moments of daring but many more of quiet resourcefulness."

All Hanks show? Nope.

Christopher Orr is impressed with Abdi. He writes in The Atlantic ,"At the other end of the spectrum, Barkhad Abdi is a revelation as Muse, the leader of the pirates. The neophyte actor offers a performance that is the perfect complement to Hanks: where the latter gradually strips his character down to its essential core, Abdi builds his up, from a stick-figure teen full of bravado to a genuinely sympathetic figure who has come to understand just how far in over his head he’s gotten. One hopes Hollywood can find further roles for Abdi in the future."

That's quite an impressive feat, eh? So how does Greengrass position newcomer Abdi as a foil to the experienced Hanks?

"It might have all been another Hollywood-formula flick with American might taking on the alien other. But Greengrass gives Phillips and Muse the time, aboard a covered lifeboat, to discover shared beliefs and fears. "I have bosses," Muse explains of his demands. "We all have bosses," says Phillips, indicating a chain of command that transcends local politics and cultures," answers Peter Travers in Rolling Stone.

Tom Long is mighty impressed. "The last 15 minutes of Captain Phillips are perhaps the most compelling moments of film this year. They will leave you shivering," he establishes in his review in Detroit News with conviction.

"This is one of the year’s best movies and it features Tom Hanks’ strongest work in more than a decade. But it’s a live wire, time bomb of a film that, when it finally releases, leaves your nerves scrambled," he adds.

What does Long have to say about the aforementioned stellar performances?

"But Greengrass, Hanks and Abdi all go beyond the obvious, bringing depth and context to a world that’s messy and brutal and awful. “Captain Phillips” isn’t about being heroic; it’s about surviving."

Anyone who thought otherwise? Despite having loved the film, Peter Rainer has a critical observation to make in CS Monitor.

"I was made a bit uncomfortable by the way the four pirates, with their snarls and bulging eyes, seem at times a breed apart from the whites on board. This extends to the blacks we see on the beach in the city of Eyl before the pirates set out. The film skirts perilously close to (Joseph Conrad's) Heart of Darkness territory – the enemy as Other."

The stereotypes never quite leave, do they?

Anyhow, Rotten Tomatoes compliments the film with a stupendous 94% on the tomatometer with the comment, "Smart, powerfully acted, and incredibly intense, Captain Phillips offers filmgoers a Hollywood biopic done right -- and offers Tom Hanks a showcase for yet another brilliant performance."

Still considering whether or not to watch this flick? I suppose that ship ought to have sailed a long time ago.


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