CINEMA with SARAH O'CONNOR: True life drama will have you on the edge of your seat
CAPTAIN PHILLIPS (12a)
CAPTAIN PHILLIPS is inspired by the true story of the 2009 hijacking of the US container ship Maersk Alabama by a crew of Somali pirates.
This is a story which, perhaps wrongly so, is a vague memory in my head which I remember happening but don't remember being particularly affected by.
So it was surprisingly shocking for me to suddenly revisit this story and find it a powerful, compelling and totally captivating experience, which shamed me for not realising the importance of the real life events four years ago.
Director Paul Greengrass has already shown a knack for taking real life events and making them compelling viewing in a very Hollywood movie kind of way.
United 93 was an account of the 9/11 plane hijacking and was uncomfortable viewing, but tremendously absorbing.
He is also a master of suspense and thrilling action, as he proved in the last two Bourne movies.
Here he tackles the true story of the US-flagged cargo ship the Maersk Alabama, captained by Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks) and attacked by Somali pirates in dangerous seas, 145 miles off the Somali coast.
When Phillips sees the pirates are about to board his ship, he radios for help, but no-one takes him seriously, and soon he is negotiating with the pirate leader, Muse (Barkhad Amdi).
Muse is only interested in money and there is not a lot of that on a cargo ship, so events lead to the capture of the ship and the crew and a ransom demand.
Much of the film focuses on the relationship between the two captains, the mind games and the psychological effect on Phillips, who was held for five days before being rescued by Navy Seals.
Coming at the story from this angle is understandable, as the film is based on the captain's own story, which he retold in the book A Captain's Duty.
But its successful translation here owes much to the work of the screenwriter Billy Ray (The Hunger Games, Flightplan) and the visual interpretation of that great script by cinematographer Barry Ackroyd (The Hurt Locker).
This work is a fine example of how a distinguished and talented crew behind the camera, the unsung heroes, can sometimes work together in complete harmony to pull off a masterful piece of art.
And in this case, the technical expertise is backed up by some very fine performances from the cast, not least of from Tom Hanks, who turns in an extraordinary performance which may well win him his third Oscar.
Hanks is not your typical action hero, nor does he play this part as such, but he is a hero just the same, and his reactions and behaviour are key to the successful outcome of his experience, and his own survival.
The relationship which develops between him and Muse is at the heart of this story and Barkhad Abdi's performance is quite brilliant, especially considering he has never acted before.
In a cat and mouse game of power play, both actors hold their own, and it is riveting to watch.
There are the usual boring bits in a film like this, a little too much emphasis on the social/political background story — we learn the Pirates are forced to live this way, stealing from the rich, because of the tyranny they experience at the hands of the warlords.
There are also a few dull moments, which fill us in on official protocols required in such a situation.
Luckily these moments are blown away by the tension created by both performers and director, and when the film gets going, it will have you on the edge of your seat.
Probably one of the best films of the year and certainly one you won't forget in a hurry.