Thursday, 8 October 2015

My Film Reviews - Captain Phillips

Captain Phillips is one of those films that comes out to a huge amount of fuss and media hype. Ordinarily, I wait until the heat dies down a little, in order to watch without any kind of pre-conceived ideas based on other people's opinions. Now I wish I had gone and watched it at the flicks - it is epic.

Released late in 2013, unbelievably this horrendous frightening tale of modern day piracy is actually based on true events. That is a scary thought.

The film starts with the always brilliant Tom Hanks as captain of a ship called the Maersk Alabama. The ship is one of those enormous container carriers - you know the ones that seem to go on forever defying logic that something that large and that heavy should float.

Hanks plays Richard Phillips, aka Captain Phillips. The ship is unarmed, and the crew's task is to take it from the pick up in the Port of Salalah, Oman, through the Gulf of Aden and onto Mombasa in Africa. The route will take them close to Somalia, which is renowned for piracy. Due to this, Captain Phillips has the crew practice drills for what they will do should they encounter them.

As the crew practice, two small blips appear on their radar. The Captain states that he doesn't like the look of it, and orders the ship to turn slightly to see if they follow. They do. Phillips orders the crew to speed up, and at first they think its still part of the drill. Soon they realise its real, and the ship is pushed to its max, powering through the water. Behind them, 2 small boats are chasing them. The boats are armed, heavily, and they start to gain.

Phillips bluffs by pretending to have made contact with base, and that an air support is imminent. This is enough for one of the boats, who turn back, much to the anger of the other pirates. The remaining boat continues after the ship, until it burns out and can't go on. The ship carries on, but Phillips and the crew know that the pirates will return. They discuss going off route, but Phillips reminds them that the waters are notorious and that going 6 hours out will be just as likely to encounter other pirates. Many of the crew are worried and angry, and Phillips has to quell their fears by telling them that they can leave when they reach their destination, but that for now, they have no choice.

The next day, the pirates return. Their boat has been welded and this time they easily keep up despite Phillips desperately trying manoeuvres to deflect their attempts to get their metal ladder attached. The ship turns hoses on the pirates, and constantly zigzags creating choppy water which causes the small boat to bang dangerously into the ships side. The pirates don't give up though, and finally, they make contact and board the ship.

Phillips orders the crew to cut the ship's power, and sends them off to hide. The lead pirate, Muse, takes control of the ship and demands money. Phillips tells him to take what's in the safe, which is approx $30,000 dollars. This isn't enough for Muse, who plans to ransom the ship.

Muse isn't daft. He doesn't believe Phillips when he tells him the ship was pushed too far and is broken. He demands to be taken to the engine room. Realising this, the crew, who are hiding there, no that they need to hide. They need to get the lights off. One of the crew sneaks out of the engine room, distracts the pirate who is stationed there with a gun and manages to cut the power. The engine room is totally dark, and the crew breaks some glass hearing that one of the pirates is bare footed.

The pirates enter the engine room, and one of them hurts his feet on the glass. Muse works out that it was deliberate, but the crew overpower him. The others escape, but the crew negotiate to swap muse for Phillips. They tell them about the ships life capsule, which the can use to get away. The plan almost works, but the pirates force Phillips into the lifeboat and take him with them, intending to use him to get the money.

This is where it gets very claustrophobic and extremely scary. The pirates start to fall out with each other, and Phillips life is in serious danger. The pirates lose contact with their mother ship, and the US navy intercepts them. Knowing that they cannot escape, they agree to send Muse over to the navy destroyer to negotiate. The navy make them believe that their elders are waiting there for them. Unbeknown to Phillips, the captain of the USS Bainbridge navy destroyer has made it clear that under no circumstances can the lifeboat reach the shore, whatever happens.

Phillips is no fool, and he knows that the navy won't allow the situation to deteriorate. He makes out that he needs the loo, and spies his chance, diving in to the water. The navy can't tell who is in the water or who is on the boat, so they cannot take any action, and reluctantly Phillips has to return to the lifeboat. The pirates fire at him, then fight with each other, knowing that if Phillips is killed they are dead.

Muse finally agrees to board the Bainbridge, becoming aware he has no other option. The navy negotiator keeps working with them, and the pirates eventually allow the boat to be towed. Muse goes ahead and boards the navy ship. In the handover Phillips makes the navy know what position he is in, and navy SEALs start to take position to try and end the crisis.

When nothing happens, Phillips begins to give up hope. He has been so strong, and so clever, but he finally cannot take anymore. He writes a goodbye note, but the pirate now in charge in Muse' absence gets angry. He blindfolds Phillips, hitting him hard with the gun. The other pirates try to stop him. The SEAL's can't get a clear shot, and it seems the pirates will shoot Phillips before they can.

Abruptly, the tow stops. Shots are fired, but at first its not clear what has happened. Phillips starts to shriek, and manages to get his blindfold down a little, seeing that the pirates have been shot. Muse, onboard the destroyer is arrested. The navy rescue Phillips, who is in a state of shock. They check him over, and he begins to sob. Its awful to watch. He thanks his rescuers and gives in to the despair and relief as they work on his injuries. The film titles come up stating that Muse was given 33 years imprisonment for his piracy.

As I said at the beginning of my review, this is absolutely terrifying, and is made all the worse for the knowledge that it is based on true events. The horror that anyone has actually been through this for real is unbearable, unthinkable. Hanks is superb. As always. Damn disgrace that this film didn't win an oscar. The pirates themselves were so convincing, so terrifying, that surely they should have been awarded.

Don't let that distract you though. The Oscars are Hollywood status, but not winning takes nothing away from the sheer brilliance of this film. Well scripted, amazingly acted, utterly absorbing and petrifying. The suspense had me almost groaning with despair and not knowing if Phillips would make it or what was going to happen.

This is an epic. I just cannot find any fault with this film. Its another 10 out of 10 from me. Like buses, I don't give a 10 out of 10 for months, then several together recently!!

For more movies, check out My Film Reviews here.

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