Oct 282013

Vue on Shiprow was an apt setting for viewing Tom Hank’s seafaring thriller Captain Phillips, writes Andrew Watson.

vuepicAlthough this is a tad more intelligent than recent fellow claustrocore film Escape Plan, it didn’t entertain to the extent that the combined brawn of Stallone and Schwarzenegger did.

Captain Phillips is based on a true story, or at least on the written account of a man taken hostage by Somalian pirates.

What should be borne in mind with such accounts is that embellishments to known facts don’t illuminate actual events.

It’s more shocking, for example, to know for a fact that three people really died in an incident than that six perish in a fictionalised account.

I daresay that Mel Gibson’s Braveheart would have benefitted hugely from a massive dose of truth given the factual historical inaccuracies in that film.

Anyway, Richard Phillips (Hanks) is the merchant sea captain of MV Maersk Alabama which runs into difficulty when being pursued by opportunistic ransom seekers during a routine exercise that turns into a real life threat.

On the other side of the story, it’s interesting to see that the Somalian pirates originate from a community bullied by warlords to whom they owe money, a somewhat sympathetic perspective offering a rationale for their seeking ransom money from merchant vessels.

The efforts of the pirates eventually see them board the Maersk Alabama, via a mobile ladder clasped to the side of a ship that dwarfs their own vessel.

What follows is a glorified cat and mouse chase, as Hanks’s character sends his crew down to the engine room in a bid to avoid capture. They eventually overcome the boarders who are forced into retreat, taking just the captain with them on the emergency lifeboat.

Basically, the film is divided between the single setting on the Maersk and on the lifeboat, the compactness of the latter, of course, defining claustrocore filming.

Towards the end, a protracted stand-off between the pirates and the US Navy SEALs, climaxes when the SEALs eventually outmanoeuvre and outwit the boarders who number fewer than half a dozen.

To sum up, Captain Phillips is at times frustratingly dull, yet at others engaging.