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Captain Phillips


Stars: Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi, Michael Chernus, Catherine Keener, Barkhad Abdirahman, David Warshofsky, Chris Mulkey

Director: Paul Greengrass

In 2009, a massive American cargo ship set out from Oban bound for Nairobi. En route, the ship was taken, despite the best efforts of its crew and their water cannons (shouldn't there be at least a couple of rifles on board these vessels?) by four Somali pirates wielding automatic weapons. Where's Steven Seagal when you need him, eh?

Thanks to the scheming of the captain (Hanks), though, one of the pirates cuts his foot badly on broken glass, while their leader, Muse (Abdi) is taken prisoner in the engine room. Offering the marauders a very generous $30,000 and a (mechanised) lifeboat, Phillips is then himself made captive in what looks to us like a very foolish mistake, as Muse is released before Phillips has finished telling the Somalis how to operate the lifeboat.

There follows a long siege as US warships close in on the lifeboat, whose occupants demand $10 million for Phillips' release. All this takes much, much too long to relate, and with tension gradually drained from potentially taut sequences towards the beginning: a tight and tense 90-minute tale was here for the taking, and, although the film hits some exciting patches towards the end, director Greengrass uncharacteristically misses most of the opportunities this true story presents.

Hanks is a bit stoical but fine, but the eye-catching performance is given by Abdi as the cocksure Muse, all aggressive, nervous energy.

David Quinlan

USA 2013. UK Distributor: Sony (Columbia). Technicolor.
133 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 17 Oct 2013