By Jess Fenton
20th October 2013

It shows a very particular and rare skill when a filmmaker can make you forget the ending of a real-life tale before it has unfolded on the big screen - it's the reason why we're sad when the Titanic sinks, weep when Virginia Wolfe kills herself and cheer when Erin Brockovich sticks it to PG&E.

The true story of Captain Richard Phillips' 2009 hostage takeover and kidnapping by Somali pirates is well-known, and even produced a book by the Captain himself - so straight away, you're well aware that this is a story he lives to tell. This isn't a horror movie or a psychological thriller, and yet there are menacing figures and it features the stuff of nightmares. When a story can't rely on spooky shadows, masked men and paranormal activities, it's forced to use other means - in the case of Paul Greengrass' ('The Bourne Supremacy') new film 'Captain Phillips', he's assembled a cast of Tom Hanks, one of Hollywood's greatest actors, and a quartet of first-timers so brilliant you'd be forgiven for thinking he plucked them straight off a pirate vessel.


Allowing access to both sides of the story, you not only fear for the life Captain Phillips, but you empathise with his abductors, in a refreshing twist with a foreign feeling that never quite sits right - a masterful stroke by the director. Greengrass also uses space beautifully, from a container ship with endless corners, corridors and machinery that can feel so big and yet so small at the same time, to a tiny enclosed life vessel on the vast ocean. You can actually feel yourself sucking down carbon dioxide-rich air trapped inside the small orange boat. The relentless tension is draining, but in such a gloriously satisfying and entertaining way.

As the credits roll and you finally gasp that breath of relief, you can't help but wonder how long you were holding it for. In a film that is sure to garner Hanks yet another Oscar nomination and possible win, could it be that co-star, Somali-born Barkhad Abdi, will be sitting right beside him waiting for his moment too?

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