Movies: Captain Phillips Review (or “You Can’t Beat A Good True Story”)

After last week’s false start, I finally got a chance to see Captain Phillips today.

And as I’ll discuss, I was glad that I did.

Captain Phillips Review: What’s It About?

It’s a drama based on the true story of Captain Richard Phillips and the 2009 hijacking by Somali pirates of the US-flagged MV Maersk Alabama; the first American cargo ship to be hijacked in two hundred years.

The focus of the film is largely on the relationship between Phillips and the “Captain” of the Somali pirates.

Captain Phillips Review: Who’s In It?

The film stars Tom Hanks as Captain Phillips, while the rest of the cast consists of actors who are perhaps of the lesser known variety. While some people might know Michael Chernus from shows such as Orange Is The New Black and The Big C, the only other actor I recognised was Corey Johnson, who played Henry van Statten in the Doctor Who story Dalek.

Indeed, the movie’s lead supporting actor – the Somali Pirate Captain, Muse, played by Barkhad Abdi – had no previous acting experience at all before he scored this gig. And that’s quite incredible.captain-phillips-poster

Furthermore, none of the other three Somali pirates have any other credits to their name on IMDB either.

Captain Phillips Review: How Highly Is It Rated?

Scoring 8.1 on IMDB from just under 27,000 votes, getting an approval rating of 94% on Rotten Tomatoes and generally getting praised by critics across the globe, this is a well received film.

Captain Phillips Review: Thoughts

For some reason I’m finding this section hard to approach. I’ve begun writing it five times and had to start again because I just couldn’t find an angle.

So what I’ll do is cut to the chase here.

Captain Phillips is easily one of the best movies I’ve seen all year. Indeed, the only other one I enjoyed as much was Side Effects. Is this better? It just might be.

Here are my main reasons for enjoying it.

The Acting:

Tom Hanks puts in one of the top acting performances in his entire career as Captain Phillips. What makes it is that he’s not obviously “acting”, so to speak. So while you’ll watch some movies and think “Oh, he’s going for an Oscar with that performance” (and I don’t mean that in a complementary way), Hanks comes across as very natural. His final scenes here are just incredibly good.

Apart from Hanks, finding out that the Somalis were played by completely inexperienced actors made their efforts all the more impressive.

So thumbs up all around.

The Pacing:

Captain Phillips takes place in three distinct acts…

  • Before the Somalis board the ship
  • The Somali attack on the ship
  • The scenes in the lifeboat

At over two hours long, there was a risk of it dragging, but it didn’t in any way, and that’s an impressive feat. The only bit that felt incongruous was Phillips’ conversation with his wife on the way to the airport. It didn’t really fit.

The Drama:

There’s just something brilliant about a tense true story, and especially one where you go into it not knowing the outcome. Nothing that happens here is particularly over the top, but it doesn’t need to be, and that’s what separates it from many of the movies I’ve seen this year.

The Problems

That’s not to say it’s perfect though. One part that annoyed me a bit – and this is something that others have actually praised it for – was the chaotic camera work. I know the director has his style, and it’s to make it seem almost like documentary footage, but some parts – most notably the scenes on the beach early on – were so wobbly that I struggled to keep up.

The other bit that I don’t think was as good as they’d have liked was in making the Somalis sympathetic. Sure, they tried to explain that these guys were just fishermen who had been driven to piracy because globalisation had robbed them of a living, but I felt the loud and clear message was USA = The Good Guys, Somalia = The Boo His Villains

Those were minor complaints to my overall enjoyment though.

Should You Go To See Captain Phillips?


This isn’t a big budget blockbuster with special effects coming from all sides.

What this is is a story. A proper story told by quality actors and excellent writers.

It flows well and it keeps you entertained.

Highly recommended.


One Response to Movies: Captain Phillips Review (or “You Can’t Beat A Good True Story”)

  1. Quite a good, exciting, gripping movie.

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