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dir Paul Greengrass
scr Billy Ray
prd Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca, Scott Rudin
with Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi, Barkhad Abdirahman, Faysal Ahmed, Mahat M Ali, Michael Chernus, David Warshofsky, Corey Johnson, Chris Mulkey, Yul Vazquez, Max Martini, Catherine Keener
release US 11.Oct.13, UK 18.Oct.13
13/US Columbia 2h14
A hijacking: Hanks and Abdi
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
Coming straight from the headlines and adapted with a documentary-style attention to detail, this fiercely well-crafted thriller would be impossible to believe if it weren't true. And even though we know the end of the story, this film generates so much nerve-shredding suspense that we feel like we need to be debriefed afterwards.
In March 2009, Richard Phillips (Hanks) took a routine job captaining a cargo ship from Oman to Kenya. Mainly carrying food aid, the American ship was hijacked off the coast of Somalia by the pirate Muse (Abdi) and three accomplices (Abdirahman, Ahmed and Ali). But this isn't just a simple act of terrorism: it's desperation that leads the Somalis to take violent action. And as the stand-off escalates, the US Navy responds with overwhelming force while trying to make sure that the kidnapped Phillips gets out alive.
This is a viscerally thrilling movie far beyond the trite jolts Hollywood normally supplies. As he did with United 93, Greengrass insists on realism in every frame. Filming on real ships and playing out dramatic action scenes without digital trickery pays off hugely, as we feel both the expansive emptiness of the ocean and the claustrophobic spaces in the vessels, especially in the lifeboat where the final showdowns play out. Every moment looks like it's happening live, and we're right in the middle of it.
Which is especially impressive considering the fact that Tom Hanks is on screen most of the time. But he manages to disappear into the role, so as the terror closes in on him, we feel it too. In the film's climactic sequence and epilogue, he emotionally goes beyond anything he's done before, which is saying something. But the film isn't only about him, and Abdi holds his own as the haunted pirate leader who knows he's running out of options.
In fact, the film is powerfully deepened by the way it explores the roots of Somali piracy in the nation's endless civil war and the collapse of its fishing industry due to foreigners' industrial over-fishing. As usual Greengrass refuses to vilify anyone, putting the events into a larger context. This makes the film's insistent urgency much more resonant than mere thrills. It's also an important exploration of the perilous world we live in.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S
Laurie Taylor, Minneapolis: "I totally agree - Tom Hanks was amazing! I actually felt his fear, and that of the crew. It was so awesome that he sacrificed himself for his men, and he really believed it was his duty. A totally awesome movie!" (17.Oct.13)
Jon, North Wales: "Beautifully filmed and ultra realistic, with some great acting performances from previously unknown African actors." (16.Feb.14)
© 2013 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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