I don’t like hostage dramas in general (predictable and samey), so I wasn’t very keen to watch this: a film about a cargo vessel being boarded by Somali pirates. There was a lot written at the time about how this was based on a true story and it was impossible to miss the obvious fact that Captain Phillips (played by Tom Hanks) had survived the experience. So already you have a tension-reducer right there. Not that they would kill off Tom Hanks anyway – a quick search on the internet reveals the number of films Tom Hanks’ character has been killed in as precisely 2. (and no Philadelphia doesn’t count)
Fortunately, not only is Hanks very good in the role as the practical and brave captain but the scope is admirably broad with just as much time paid to the backstory and motivations of the Somali pirates as to those of Phillips. The captain of the Somali pirates Abduwali Muse (Barkhad Abdi) also impresses and won a much deserved BAFTA for his role.
This being said you still know that Phillips survives so even during particularly tense moments – for example where Phillips is alone with the increasingly hot-headed and desperate pirates in a small lifeboat – the tension is not as intense as it could have been. The only real question is ‘when’ he will be rescued. The ‘how’ being answered as soon as the Navy Seals train their sniper rifles on the boat.
Hopefully apart from being a good movie this will do a service to merchant shipping as a whole. It’s almost unbelievable how vulnerable large cargo vessels like the one in this film can be. You wonder at the lack of even a single armed guard on board. In fact in this case even a well placed crew member could have unhooked the boarding ladder and saved a whole lot of expense and trouble.
Overrated upon release but definitely one of the better hostage dramas you will see. 6/10