Paul Greengrass doesn’t make movies like other directors. His films – whether mainstream action capers like his Bourne movies or political-baiting ground-level actioners like United 93 or Bloody Sunday – are all possessed of an immediate, handheld style that critics often refer to as “steely.” It’s tempting to refer to his style as having no style whatsoever. He’s just going to charge in headfirst, documenting rather than commenting. In a way, this has allowed Greengrass to tackle touchy political or topical material without succumbing to partisanship.
The touchy topic he covers in Captain Phillips is the true story of Richard Phillips, an American ship captain who was abducted by Somalian pirates. His ship was the first American ship to be taken by pirates in centuries. Greengrass’ approach was purely procedural. We get to see Phillips (Tom Hanks) as the no-nonsense leader, sticking to the book, and trying to use his wits to outrun, evade, and eventually just survive in the face of actual piracy. We also spend time with the Somalian Muse (Barkhed Abdi), the skeletal criminal in charge of the situation, and the process he goes through. We even get to see his situation at home, and why piracy …read more