Action thriller addresses political grey area, impresses critics

By: Laney Gibson – Chief A&E Writer

Fast paced, informative and surprisingly thought-provoking, “Captain Phillips” showcases Tom Hanks in a new film that has impressed both audiences and critics.

In 2009, when I rarely picked up on current events, I briefly remember hearing about the Somali pirate crisis. If memory serves me correctly, I thought for a second about the actual reality of the situation, and then proceeded to imagine “Pirates of the Caribbean” and the entertaining concept of pirates. With my newfound college-aged concern for world happenings and an irrational devotion to Tom Hanks, I was excited to finally understand what actually occurred.

“Captain Phillips,” directed by Paul Greengrass, is a new movie based on a true-life thriller about the 2009 hijacking of the U.S. container ship Maersk Alabama by a crew of Somali pirates. The film follows the entire sequence of events that occurred both before and after the incident and focuses on the relationship between Captain Richard Phillips (Hanks) and the Somali pirate captain, Muse (Barkhad Abdi), who takes over the ship.

To save the crew, Phillips sacrifices himself and is taken hostage. The film turns into a race against time for both of the men, producing impressive messages about our government and the current globalized world we live in.

The film is impressive simply because of the acting caliber from the entire cast. Hanks, even if his New England accent is a little cringe-worthy at the start, offers an incredibly believable performance in the role of Captain Phillips. When his bravado eventually wears thin and he is left dehydrated, scared and facing a very angry pirate fully prepared to shoot a bullet through his head, the acting is uncomfortably spot on.

Abdi is a newcomer, but can hold his own, even sharing the screen with Hanks, while maintaining an intimidating and complex presence. Nicknamed “Skinny,” he somehow manages to be a commanding crew leader despite his gaunt, physical appearance, which serves to make him even more terrifying.

I am thankful the entire film was not completely black and white regarding the complex issues surrounding piracy and globalization. Despite the fact what the Somali pirates did was obviously violent and by most standards, wrong, the film highlights briefly the difficult position of the pirates.

Through small but impactful conversations between Muse and Phillips, it is possible to get a glimpse of the multilayered issue of poverty and globalization.

“There’s got to be something other than being a fisherman or kidnapping people,” Phillips poses to Muse, who retorts: “Maybe in America, Irish. Maybe in America.”

For a second, the Somali pirates just seem a product of a much larger system that leaves many around the world extremely desperate.

Unfortunately, the film is an American thriller, and there simply has to be winners and losers in our cinema. In the end America has won, the bad pirates lose and everyone goes home happy. The ending scene is almost grotesquely violent and left the Somalian pirates slaughtered and Muse in chains, tricked into believing there would be a peaceful end. Disturbingly enough, during my viewing experience the audience cheered and screamed overjoyed yelps of “‘Merica!” right up until Phillips was back to safety. Sigh.

I would recommend Captain Phillips on the basis of good acting and thrilling plot that, for the most part, attempts to expose the complicated grey area that globalization has produced even if the ending seems black and white.

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