The buzz has been pretty high for this ‘based-on-a-true-story’ thriller about the real-life Somali pirate hijacking of a US ship in 2009 – and for the most part it’s well deserved.

Tom Hanks puts in another Oscar-nomination worthy performance (though a third win would be a stretch) under the guidance of acclaimed United 93 and The Bourne Ultimatum helmer Paul Greengrass in this effective edge-of-the-seat thriller.

But it’s arguably the cast of Somali pirates – particularly Barkhad Abdi as leader Muse – who really make this movie such a compelling watch.


Cleverly director Greengrass doesn’t just throw Muse – and his three compatriots – literally in at the deep end, but shows an intriguing empathetic back story that outlines the lengths these poor Somali villagers will go to – all to please greedy money-hungry bosses.

And this time these pirates have really gone for a big fish, by targeting American container vessel the Maersk Alabama, which is travelling 145 miles off the Somali coast with a twenty-man strong crew.

But through some instinctive anti-pirate techniques and delaying tactics, the ship’s captain Richard Phillips (Hanks) provides heroism which leads to an intriguing stand-off as the unarmed ship is boarded by these fearless African invaders.

For those of you who don’t know the story, the rest of this review will be plot free – but suffice to say this is tense stuff despite the final third dragging a tad.

But it’s particularly the chemistry between Hanks and Abdi that makes it a must-see as the duo find themselves at the mercy of powers beyond their control.

It is arguably only a film that needs to be seen just the once, and lacks that certain bit of ‘magic’ to make it truly a movie ‘great’ – but this is solid and competent fare that deserves attention despite a few alleged inaccuracies given that Hollywood spin.

It’s also a welcome return-to-form for one of Tinseltown’s finest stars – as Hanks comes through choppy waters to steer this elegantly into the year’s Top Ten films.

Gavin Miller

Cast: Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi, Faysal Ahmed, Mahet M Ali, Barkhad Abdirahman, Michael Chernus, Chris Mulkey, Max Martini, David Warshofsky, Corey Johnson, Yul Vasquez, Omar Berdouni, Catherine Keener

Running Time: 2hrs 15mins

Director: Paul Greengrass

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