Stand aside, Captain Jack Sparrow. There is a new captain in town, and this one isn't a pirate. Instead, he fights against them.
The much-anticipated film "Captain Phillips," starring Tom Hanks, opened in theaters Oct. 11.
Based on a true story, the movie depicts the tale of Capt. Richard Phillips, who was taken captive by Somali pirates after they hijacked his cargo ship, the Maersk Alabama. Forced off the ship into a lifeboat with four pirates, the situation quickly escalates into a standoff between the pirates and the U.S. Navy.
The movie opens by alternately showing Phillips' and the pirates' preparations for their journeys. Phillips' apprehension of the possibility of pirates is apparent in the safety measures that he takes with his crew. The pirates also prepare for their mission as they dispute amongst themselves to establish a power structure.
Things begin to unravel when a safety drill – ordered by Phillips – turns real as three incoming vessels are spotted on the radar.
Though history shows that Phillips survived the ordeal, there are still several moments where the audience is left hanging on to the edge of their seats and biting their nails in fear and worry. The tension that exists between Muse and Phillips is realistic and captivating.
This is due mainly to Hanks' excellent portrayal of Phillips. There is a certain fearful determination about him. Though he is clearly terrified, he still attempts to fight back any way he can. He refuses to cry or beg and even attempts to come between the pirates by befriending the youngest, who was injured.
The audience sees Phillips as a powerful American hero who refuses to give up under impossible odds.
The film itself also plays a part in the movie's effectiveness. The camera's point of view is shaky, with unsteady zooming and panning, which lends an almost home movie-like quality to the film. While this technique can be distracting, in this film it only serves to enhance the intensity.
The lack of any obvious soundtrack adds to the mood as well, as it keeps the focus entirely on the relationship between the pirates and Phillips. Altogether, the audience really gets the sense that they are there in the lifeboat with Phillips, Muse and the other three pirates.
Though there is a lack of intense violence in this film, there is the constant threat of danger. It is the possibility of violence, and not actual violence, that drives the movie. Yes, Phillips does take a beating, but more often he is threatened with it. The audience feels this danger as well, and so when Phillips is finally rescued, his emotional breakdown and obvious relief permeates the audience.
While the film is powerful, the underlying messages also hold a certain importance. The film casts a very positive light on our U.S. armed forces. It shows the lengths that our country will go to for its people. Three battleships were sent out to bring one man home. They were precise, organized, skilled at their jobs and suffered no casualties on the American side.
The film portrays the action in such a way that the pirates' deaths almost go unnoticed. The audience does not mourn or cheer their loss. The focus remains upon Phillips and his experiences. He remains the focal point, while the military acts as the tool that helps bring this one American hero home.
Altogether, "Captain Phillips" represents the typical American hero, one who can survive anything and live to face it again. The film did a beautiful job of creating suspense in a current events type of movie where most know the ending, much like last year's Argo did. This genre has seen many successful, Oscar-nominated films, and "Captain Phillips" could be next.