Fact or fiction, it's a gripping thriller

Fact or fiction, it's a gripping thriller
Cinema still: Captain Phillips starring Tom Hanks


Drama-action/134 minutes

Rating: 3.5/5

British director Paul Greengrass's reel adaptation of a real-life hostage ordeal is a taut thriller that not only captures a tense hostage situation, but also delves a little deeper to explore the moral contradictions we face in a globalised world.

The opening sequence shows Captain Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks) engaging in some rather banal conversation with his wife while leaving his suburban home in the United States for the merchant vessel Maersk Alabama, which is docked in Oman.

But the film soon cuts across the world to Somalia, where the fevered desperation of the villagers and lawlessness of the Somalian coast provide the counterpoint to the middle-class, corporate world Capt Phillips inhabits.

From then on, crisis after crisis besets the giant container ship which, while a behemoth, eventually falls prey to a small band of determined pirates in their worn fisherman's skiff.

The four Somalians break into the ship's bridge, taking the captain hostage. The leader of the band of pirates, Muse - played by neophyte Barkhad Abdi - brazenly declares: "I am the captain now."

The former Somalian refugee's performance is arresting, and he comes off well beside veteran Hanks, who convincingly portrays an everyman relying on his wits to survive a life-threatening crisis.

Beyond the action, the interaction between captain and pirate illuminates some of the context which has made piracy a scourge in the Gulf of Aden since the early 2000s. Pirate activity has slowed since with increased anti-piracy measures.

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