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The Sun movie review: ‘Captain Phillips’

HAMBURG — To say “Captain Phillips” is a pirate movie would be doing it a grave disservice. Yes, it has pirates, and there are boats and ships and water – lots of water – but “Captain Phillips” is not a Johnny Depp romp.

This is a very serious, very tense and very emotional film that depicts the hijacking of an unarmed United States cargo ship off the coast of Somali, in 2009. Directed by Paul Greengrass, this exciting thriller is all the more remarkable because it is a true story based on Captain Richard Phillips’ book.

Greengrass knows how to keep the pulse pounding. If you are a fan of his two hit movies, “The Bourne Supremacy” and “The Bourne Ultimatum,” as I am, you will know just what I mean. He brings that same kind of rhythm to “Captain Phillips.”

Plus, there is something new he brings to his accomplished style: the close-up. Much of this movie is shot by bringing the camera near the action.

There are fights, chases and all sorts of histrionics played out in such a manner as to keep the viewer deliciously nervous and frightened throughout. This includes the wonderfully acted dramatic scenes, which are so real and gut-wrenching. This in-your-face style is a masterstroke from Greengrass.

“Captain Phillips” is expertly cast with Tom Hanks in the title role. Hanks has to be the most real actor in Hollywood. He is the present day James Stewart: the everyman. Nobody does it better. His last scene in the film will break your heart. Oscar©, anyone?

Supported by Barkhad Abdi in an outstanding film debut as the naïve and tragic Somali pirate, Muse, and Barkhad Abdiramam as the scary, wild and menacing pirate, Bilal, this tragedy at sea is a monumental achievement in human drama.

Much of the film focuses on the relationship between commanding officer Captain Richard Phillips (Hanks) and the Somali pirate captain Muse (Abdi) who, along with his shabby gang, takes Phillips hostage, with the hope of a $10 million ransom.

This is a complex tale of ordinary people caught up in extraordinary circumstances. Its depiction of a dual struggle for survival by captives as well as captors is quite unusual. You won’t see a hero rise to conquer. There are no heroes here. You will see real men honestly confronting fear. And that is the distinction that powers this film.

To avoid spoiling your movie-going experience, I won’t synopsize this film any further. You may be familiar with this story from when it made the news, five years ago. I was not, and thankfully so. It was all a shocking surprise to me.

As it speeds along, “Captain Phillips” has a natural sequential flow that will have you entranced until the final second. All I can say is that, when the final credits began to roll, the audience expressed a collective sigh of relief and an audible “Whew!”

“Captain Phillips” is currently playing in theaters.

Tony Baksa is a Hamburg resident who has spent the majority of his life working in show business. He is the founder and artistic director of Hamburg Theatre Under The Stars. His blog “The Kitchen Sink,” a blog about everything, was named one of the top 10 best new international blogs by Google.

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