First Hit: Tom Hanks is Oscar worthy as was Barkhad Abdi in their respective roles although the film is longer than needed.
This is a great story of two men from different cultures with different objectives colliding.
We meet Captain Phillips (Hanks) with his wife as he heads towards the airport to be dropped off for another trip. He’s a rules guy and wants his crew to shape up – he takes his job seriously. Just as he’s testing the crew on their readiness, a set of boats are approaching fast.
As he discerns that they are pirates, he implores his crew to follow procedure and lock-down the ship, hide, and don’t take chances. He on the other hand, will take intentional chances to keep his crew, the ship and the cargo safe.
Muse (Abdi) is leading a small group of pirates to hijack Phillip's ship and take it back to Somalia for “millions of dollars”. His "boss" has control of Muse's village and forces them to hijack ships or their village will suffer casualties. The ship he attacks is a US registered ship and the US Navy isn’t going to let his dreams of millions come true.
That’s the overall plot. But the action is the dialog between Phillips and Muse. It is intense, crisp, and objective driven.
Director Paul Greengrass uses hand-held cameras and for the most part makes effective use of them by not shaking them just for shakings’ sake. Ships use space effectively and there are a lot of close quarters so his use of these cameras is required to make this film work.
Where the film didn’t work for me was that we are required to spend well over an hour (of a 2+ hour film) waiting for it to get toward the inevitable conclusion. It just seemed to me that some of the extended scenes in the lifeboat weren’t needed.
Hanks is phenomenal. He will win an Oscar nomination for best actor. His final scenes of going through the shock of his experience were transcendent. Abdi’s performance was equally remarkable as Hanks. His intensity as expressed through his eyes showed through. He deserves a best supporting actor nomination for his portrayal of the “Captain” of the hijackers. Everyone else was good. Billy Ray wrote an engaging script and Greengrass did an extraordinary job of bringing this true story for life.
Overall: Although too long, this is a great story and film to watch.