Thanks to CNN, nearly every news junkie knows the end of this story: April 8, 2009, Somalian pirates took hold of the Maersk Alabama. Demanding millions of dollars with machine guns strapped to backs and pointed at heads, they forced Captain Richard Phillips to lead them from deck to deck in search of hidden crew members. What followed was a five-day standoff on a raft, with Phillips held as hostage, while heroic Navy Seals moved in with a tactical maneuvered rescue. Years later, this memorable story has been turned into a Hollywood big budget movie that we now know as Captain Phillips, starring Tom Hanks.
But what makes this film unforgettable is the ending, the last 30 minutes to be exact. They’re the reason why Hanks has garnered Oscar buzz that, if nominated, could lead to his third best actor trophy after winning for Forrest Gump and Philadelphia. His nuanced evoking of traumatic, helpless, shock and awe intensely mixed with blood and tears of fear make for moving cinema propelled by a dynamic performance.
“When we met, I told Rich, I said, 'Hey, look, I'm going to say things you never said and I'm going to be places you never were, but what I'm going for is … authenticity,’” Hanks said in an interview with CNN. “I don't want to ruin his life by, you know, turning his motivations into something they weren't.”
The film took two years to make and four months of research by director Paul Greengrass, the former journalist who directed The Bourne Supremacy, The Bourne Ultimatum, Bloody Sunday and United 93. Although taken from headlines, Captain Phillips is based on the true story and not completely accurate of what really took place aboard the Maersk Alabama on that fateful day in 2009. Today, lawsuits continue with the real life Phillips as witness, admitting to ignoring warnings about sailing into waters known for rampant pirate attacks. He’s a reluctant celebrity, waving off newspaper inspired notions of being a brave hero who saved his crew.
Still, despite knowing the truth documented by journalists worldwide, Captain Phillips will make one forget that they ever watched the real story on late night news, or ever heard of a standoff 380 miles off the coast of Somalia. By the end of this film, you’ll be pulled into a world of high tides, high emotions, and hands held high co-signing the witnessing of Tom Hanks’ likely nomination and winning of his next Oscar.