Captain Phillips: Hanks’ Vivid Portrayal is Oscar Quality

Sister Katie and I were so exhausted after seeing the movie “Captain Phillips” yesterday, we didn’t even take time for our usual after-movie coffee break and doughnuts. After all, we had just been through a harrowing experience. After Tom Hanks’ vivid portrayal of the famous captain of the cargo ship “Maersk Alabama”, we felt like we’d been shot at, kidnapped, and held in a hot enclosed lifeboat for days. I was asleep on the couch by 7 p.m. Mike had to wake me up to go to bed.

The suspense in this movie is a killer — and it is definitely one you’ll want to share with your movie-mates. I was so impressed I’m not only going to buy the movie, I bought the book by Phillips called “A Captain’s Duty”. I’m eager to know all the details.

Since anyone who has the least interest in the movie knows the major points by now, I won’t bore you with the details. Everybody and his brother have done that to death. I want to tell you what impressed me. A big surprise was the great portrayals of the pirates by the Somalian actors.This was their film debut, but you would never have known it. They are from Minneapolis and their names are Faysal Ahmed, Barkhad Abdi, Barkhad Abdirahman, and Mahat Ali. They held us captive throughout the entire film and on the edge of our seats. I kept pulling my purse strap so hard it’s probably frayed, and I chewed my gum to a pulp. Now THAT’s real suspense, folks

As the temper of the pirates rose along with the temperature within the hot enclosed vessel — with the Navy turning up the heat on the outside — the fear and frustration peaked. Sister Katie said if that was me in that hot, smelly lifeboat instead of Captain Phillips, there wouldn’t have been a situation for very long. “You would have made mincemeat of them inside five minutes, guns and all.” she said. No. I’m not that brave, and I don’t do martial arts. What I do is hot flashes so intense I must have Eskimo level air-conditioning or take a plunge in Lake Michigan in January — or somebody gets hurt. When I told Mike about the sweaty heat that Captain Phillips had to endure he said, “Katie’s right. The Navy wouldn’t have found a single pirate intact after you turned into the Tasmanian Devil.”

Everything worked in this movie to make it unforgettable. And it left out jarring and offensive language, concentrating instead on character and story. I’m no sailor, but to me, all the details of the movie’s maritime movements, environment, background, and unique language, looked and sounded authentic. I applaud the director, Paul Greengrass, who also did the Jason Bourne series. I watched those, and the man does know how to do edge-of-your seat suspense while still carrying a plot forward.The screenplay was written by Billy Ray (The Hunger Games), based on the book I mentioned by Captain Phillips.

Another point that made this movie not just good, but great, is that it built upon a solid foundation and kept building until the end. It didn’t start out like the Wild West with guns blazing. The movie moved while staying intact and cohesive. My eyes were glued to the screen from beginning to end, and the ending, with the converging of the U.S. Navy ships and Navy SEALS, was awesome. The range of emotion that Tom Hanks portrayed, from fear to rage to emotional exhaustion at the end, left my sister and me weeping and stunned. Katie and I just sat in our seats while the credits rolled, not saying a word.

Anyway, unless you haven’t been paying attention, I highly recommend this movie. It’s worth going to the theater to see.


12 thoughts on “Captain Phillips: Hanks’ Vivid Portrayal is Oscar Quality

    • Reading your review, I wonder how many Somalians of that community actually tried out for the parts. It’s unusual that all four friends got those leading parts together. I would like to know more of their backgrounds.

      • Entertainment Weekly magazine, Oct. 4, had an article on the four main guys who played the Somali pirates and gives their backgrounds.

        The pirate “captain,” Muse (Barkhad Abdi, age 28), immigrated to the United States at age14. He was born in Somalia and escaped with his family to Yemen at age 6. He now works at his brother’s cell phone store in Minneapolis.

        Najee (Faysal Ahmed, age 29), the hot-headed pirate, initially auditioned for the role of Muse. He is of Somali descent but was born and raised in Yemen before moving to America at age 14. In Minneapolis he works with his contractor brother.

        Bilal (Barkhad Abdirahaman, age 19 ), the “innocent” pirate, was born in Kenya to Somali parents.

        Elmi (Mahat M. Ali, age 20) was also born in Kenya. He played the volatile pirate who drives the lifeboat.

  1. I probably won’t see this in a theater, but I’ll definitely get the DVD when available. One question: why couldn’t the crew have kept the pirates from getting close enough to board by using those massive water hoses? And it would have taken a VERY long ladder to reach the ship’s rails from the pirates’ small boats. How could they have transported such a long lader?

    • Well, what the movie showed was that the pirates were able to get close because one of those hoses failed. The pirate craft was rather long, and they had a ladder with hoks on the end. It could not have been easy, but from the little background I found, these pirates had a lot of experience in boarding ships. I’m looking forward to getting the book and hope it will go into more detail.

    • This is an EXCELLENT article. Wish I had written it. But since everyone had seemingly said all there was to say about the plot itself, I opted to go with how it felt to watch it and my impressions. And this guy was right. That unscripted ending was totally gut-wrenching. That’s why Katie and I were in tears as it ended and emotionally stunned. Hanks was awesome. Thanks for the article link. It was awesome, tool

  2. Off topic, but I just learned today from another friend that WordPress has both free and paid accounts. I wonder if the paid account has more features and fewer glitches. The bad part though is that if you have a free account then upgrade, NONE of the previous posts can be transferred. What a bummer. I’d think that would keep a lot of the free account users from upgrading. It would me if Live Journal worked that way. Most of my friends there (me included) started with free LJs then upgraded.


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