Our verdict on Tom Hanks' gripping thriller, based on a true story and retold to devastatingly dramatic effect.
Tom Hanks, Captain Phillips' supremely accomplished lead star, hardly needs to prove himself to the audience at this stage in his illustrious career. Nevertheless, it is Hanks who carries his latest, grounded piece through thick and thin, his uncanny portrayal of a real-life captain who finds his ship stormed by Somali pirates undoubtedly the highlight of the flick.
What the Forest Gump and Saving Private Ryan performer has and the majority of his co-stars lack is a profound sense of tangible depth, his character nothing less than a pinpoint-accurate representation of how many of us would react to the situation of modern piracy and seabound isolation, in great part due to the restrained and thus doubly effective depiction from Hanks. Of course, minor scripted moments such as Phillips' infrequent emails to his family aid in this believable motion picture rendition of a heroic figure, yet in reality it's Hanks who governs the success to which the construct is conveyed to the audience.
That's not to say that Captain Phillips is deprived of quality in any great sense by its supporting cast. On the contrary, Barkhad Abdi's pirate leader (arguably a protagonist of sorts unto himself) is brilliantly terrifying at times, Abdi and Hanks' election to only meet for the first time during the filming of an intense scene clearly having worked wonders in terms of their eventual on-screen chemistry. Other than Abdi, though, whether due to their shallow (pun not intended) portrayals or the inconsistent dialogue they are offered, cast members such as Corey Johnson and Faysal Ahmed present fairly forgettable characters who don't integrate into our view of modern social reactions nearly as efficiently as the two leads, a shame given the potential that the film had to succeed on all fronts.
An inevitable issue that arises when a production team takes on an adaptation of a true story is that they are thus bound by its resolution for the sake of accuracy and integrity. This results in Captain Phillips' climax being governed in direction by the events which it adapts, and while a positive resolution to proceedings is generally preferable to the alternative for audiences (with the horror genre being the one notable exception), the final confrontation here feels rushed and only dramatically impactful to a certain extent due to its brevity. One would hope that the real-world Phillips would be satisfied with this depiction- although word has it that even he questions some of the 'accuracy'-led choices made within the film's structure- but to the viewer, the actual impact of the movie's concluding moments could well be a hollow one, in all honesty. To negate criticism of this would be to defy the role of a film review, so here accuracy can be viewed as proving detrimental.
The end result, then, with this insightful, emotive flick is a somewhat infuriating echo of what might have been. I shan't doubt that Captain Phillips will enter the leagues of the Oscar nominees, yet there's a whole host of instances throughout the film's 135-minute running time where a more consistent cast and a more ambitious narrative might have served the film as a whole more effectively. This is a movie which certainly warrants your time and hard-earned cash, but it's not up there with Hanks' greatest works, the remainder of its supporting constructs beyond its leads requiring a suspension of disbelief that does its lead stars some discredit. What Captain Phillips will be recalled for by this reviewer is moments of dramatic power too frequently overshadowed by the moments of regret and recognition at the lack of one or two crucial contributory elements to make it a bonafida gem.