Paul Greengrass has nearly made a very good movie. Tom Hanks puts in a lifetime best performance as the captain of a ship subjected to a fairly inept Somalian Pirate hijack. The concluding scene is arguably worth the ticket price alone but we have a rather unevenly judged journey to traverse before we get there.
The opening scenes as the captain leaves his wife for a month at sea are unconvincing and not really very believably scripted but the film quickly settles into itself on board the Maersk container ship that Phillips has to steer Southwards along the Somalian Coast and around the Crook of Africa.
We are then, in cinema verite style, (ie shaky camera) introduced to a band of Somalian mercenary pirates, brilliantly cast by Francine Maisler. The chief protagonist in this motley crew is Muse played by the raggedy and waif-like Barkhad Abdi. Throughout he engages us with his his mix of vulnerability and venom. It’s another great performance.
Inevitably the pirates board the ship (well obviously – so hardly a spoiler) but both the build up and the time on board are strangely unexciting.
(Dare I say it, almost a tad dull?)
Without spoiling the plot the movie moves significantly through the gear box in the second half as things get a lot more claustrophobic and significantly more epic.
It nearly excites.
But it doesn’t really.
This movie feels like a missed opportunity. Despite Hanks and Abdi it’s not a gripper and it needs to be. It has no real political insight or judgement. The ‘baddies’ are, aside from Abdi, caricatures; at times resonant of the Islamic terrorists portrayed so hilariously in Four Lions. American imperialism is celebrated rather than challenged.
It has its moments (not least the magnificent closing scene) but overall it’s no more than a 6/10.