Captain Phillips (Paul Greengrass, 2013)

What's it about? Based on the true story of Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks), the captain of an American container ship that was seized by pirates off the coast of Somalia in 2009. This film dramatizes those events.

Is it any good? A thoroughly enjoyable thriller. After a misstep with the insipid Green Zone, Greengrass is back to the high standards of United 93 and Bloody Sunday, dramatizing real-life events in his customary docudrama style, complete with his 'shakycam' approach. It all works terrifically well, with the tension built and sustained superbly, helped by strong performances from Hanks (his best turn in years) and newcomer Barkhad Abdi as the pirate leader. Indeed, so impressive is Abdi that I found myself on his side in the early stages of the film as he and his motley crew attempt the seemingly impossible task of boarding the huge ship from their tiny skiff in a thrillingly realised sequence. This is fully intended by Greengrass, of course, who always attempts to bring a clear-eyed intelligence and authenticity to his films. As part of this approach, despite the trappings of a commercial blockbuster, he strives to keep things even-handed, with the actions of the characters placed in context against a wider picture of global inequality and globalization. Thus, the lines between the good and bad guys are blurred and whilst no attempt is made to excuse the actions of the pirates, the viewer is invited to empathize with them. Having said that, the later stages of the film do carry an element of American imperialism as a superpower (over?)reacts to the situation. Still, doubts over the film's political leanings miss the point somewhat. If you're looking to watch an exciting, engaging thriller, this delivers the booty.

I don't trust you. What do others think? It's been well-received so far, with Oscar buzz building for Hanks and Abdi in particular. However, pesky accusations of it being American propaganda  - well-made propaganda admittedly, but still propaganda - have popped up like, well, a pop-up pirate, not to mention some unhelpful input from Richards' real-life crew who claim the film is somewhat loose with the real facts of the case. There's a couple of articles here and here to stir the mutineering spirit within you. Naturally, Somali pirate film hipsters have scoffed at the multiplex plebs and pointed instead to the Danish film A Hijacking, which deals with a similar story without having to resort to something as vulgar as - *spit* - a movie star.

Anything else I should know? Best not watch this if you want to avoid spoilers. However, once you have you can compare the film version with the real-life footage, courtesy of the Discovery channel. OR IS IT JUST MORE MILITARISTIC AMERICAN PIG-DOG PROPAGANDA??!!?!?!?

What does the Fonz think? Me timbers were shivered.

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