Action on screen feels authentic in ‘Captain Phillips’

Though unarmed, Captain Phillips (Tom Hanks) still has resources at his disposal when his ship is taken over by Somali pirates in "Captain Phillips." (AP photo)

Though unarmed, Captain Phillips (Tom Hanks) still has resources at his disposal when his ship is taken over by Somali pirates in “Captain Phillips.” (AP photo)

By M. Scott Morris

Daily Journal

“Captain Phillips,” which is based on real events, begins with hurdles that must be overcome.

I remember the news coverage from 2009, when a team of Somali pirates took over the Maersk Alabama, a merchant ship. And I know how that event turned out.

The filmmakers couldn’t clear all the hurdles. During some tense moments, I reminded myself there was nothing to worry about.

But for the most part, the cast and crew have crafted an oftentimes thrilling movie that draws the viewer in.

Tom Hanks is the title character, a family man and ship captain who knows the waters off Somalia are dangerous. Even before the pirates show up, he pushes his crew to increase their discipline.

Without any guns on the ship, Phillips and his crew are as ready as they can be by the time the pirates arrive. It’s amazing how many lies the captain tells to misdirect the attackers, and they’re the kind of lies that could easily come back to haunt him and his crew.

Barkhad Abdi is Muse, the pirate captain, and he is fantastic, standing toe-to-toe with Hanks in every scene.

Muse is willing to do whatever it takes to succeed in Somalia’s criminal economy. He’s brutal and tough, but he’s also a natural leader and clearly intelligent. Abdi’s depiction of Muse adds an extra layer of depth to “Captain Phillips.”

When the Navy SEALs arrive on scene, the story hits its climax, with Phillips still telling lies and taking chances, and Muse still trying to get his money and get out clean.

This is a strong, entertaining story that’s also revealing with details about life on ship, how the pirates operated and the SEALs’ tactics. Director Paul Greengrass shot the film aboard an actual merchant marine ship and had the use of Navy vessels.

Hanks provides the film’s heart, but the strength of “Captain Phillips” is its authentic feel.

I give it an A minus.

It’s showing at the Cinemark in Tupelo, as well as Malcos in Oxford, Corinth and Columbus, and Hollywood Premier Cinemas in Starkville.

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