This true story is based Captain Richard Phillip's biography "A Captain's Duty," written by Stephen Talty. It is about four Somali Pirates hijacking the US flagged MV Maersk Alabama off of the coast of Somali in 2009 and holding Captain Phillips hostage. This was the first American cargo ship to be hijacked in two hundred years. Once more the multi-talented Oscar winner Kevin Spacey, as an executive producer, is to be thanked for helping to bring this heroic story to the screen.
The cinematography is mindboggling as Barry Ackroyd had to film in such tight quarters as a lifeboat and succeeded in capturing Tom Hanks' many expressions of terror. I do believe some shots linger too long on Hanks and milk his emotional close-ups. To have cleaned this up was the responsibility of director Greengrass and editor Christopher Rouse.
The Somali actors Barkhad Abdi, Barkhad Abdirahman, Faysal Ahmed, Mahat M. Ali are excellent and have cheek bones that remind me of peaks on Mt. Everest. Captain Phillips' wife is played by the talented Catherine Keener though her role is far too brief.
Crew members are portrayed by actors Michael Chernus (Shane Murphy), Yul Vazquez (Captain Frank Castellano), David Warshavsky (Mike Perry), but there are many more gifted performers and vital members of the crew. Max Martini as SEAL Commander, whose true name is obviously not disclosed, portrays an intelligence and grace under pressure in dealing with the hijackers. His calm reassuring yet threatening voice shows us how an American negotiating Seal wizard saves the day. The hijackers become buffoons in his hands. You will be on the edge of your seat during Martini's performance and that of the US Navy SEAL Commandos.
Of course this is Tom Hanks' film as he portrays the heroic Captain Phillips. However controversy surrounds the veracity of Captain Phillips' account. http://www.cnn.com/2013/10/08/showbiz/captain-phillips-movie-controversy/ Many crew members are bringing a lawsuit against the Danish ship maker Maersk claiming Captain Phillips sailed intentionally into dangerous waters off the coast of Somali to shorten the trip and save money.
Captain Phillips said in a court deposition last year that the real heroes are the Navy SEALS and the crew, who stayed calm, followed orders and instincts, and prevented a tragedy. "They did a wonderful job."
And so do Tom Hanks, Max Martini, Paul Greengrass and the terrific Somali actors. Don't miss this one.