Why do people like this movie so much?

Currently sitting at an 8.1 rating on IMDb and 93% on Rotten Tomatoes, Captain Phillips is garnering way too much love and attention for what I think is merely an average movie. Don’t get me wrong, I can recognize Captain Phillips as a highly polished product, but it has plenty of faults and fails to justify its Best Picture nominee at the Oscars. With Tom Hanks in the title role, Captain Phillips is a movie tailor-made for old white folks. For most of this movie, Tom Hanks is just there—not much range is displayed and he looks like he’s just going through the motions. And that’s not even mentioning his terrible Boston accent.

However, the end of Captain Phillips is an impressive display of Hanks at his best.

We all know the story or are at least familiar with (on some level) the hijacking of the American cargo ship Maersk Alabama by Somali pirates. In particular, I remember the impressive display of US military prowess in how the situation was resolved. But you aren’t provided a glimpse of that action until the audience is forced to endure nearly 2 hours of unbearable boringness away at sea.

Before even boarding the ship, the opening 10 minutes displays Captain Phillips and his wife (played by Catherine Keener) having a horribly dull, hokey conversation about how this world is different than the one they were born into while Hanks drives to the airport. If you weren’t aware, the life of a Somali pirate isn’t exactly extravagant. But holy shit, Barkhad Abdi does a phenomenal job portraying the primary pirate.

Film Fall Preview

If you didn’t already know anything about the real-life hijacking, the studio wasn’t going to let you walk into the theater without knowing how the story would unfold. I applaud anyone who somehow managed to avoid their awful marketing scheme because the trailer literally showed every major moment in the movie.

Once you’re aboard with Captain Phillips, it thankfully doesn’t take very long for the pirates to show up. However, that also presents a significant issue because the first hour of Captain Phillips deals with the hijacking of the Maersk Alabama while the next hour focuses on the kidnapping in the lifeboat. Although the intent is to build tension, the director stays fixated on certain points for far too long.

Captain Phillips is not necessarily a bad movie, but I found it ultimately forgettable and largely uninteresting. Without any emotional investment into any of the characters, this movie fails to capture anything more than the action. Unfortunately, there was more to mine in this story than just the actual hijacking itself. But the corporate greed or other motivating factors that resulted in Somali pirates being able to successfully hijack the ship are never truly addressed.

Despite the movie being named after Captain Phillips, you never learn anything of value about the man or any other character because this movie seems afraid of achieving depth. Captain Phillips is the movie for you if you’re looking to spend (or waste, depending on how you look at it) more than 2 hours drifting aimlessly as a fly on the wall during a hijacking.

Only half of this movie works, and it’s not surprising that those parts involve both Tom Hanks and Barkhad Abdi. Without those performances and shared scenes, Captain Phillips is a complete zero. Although this movie will not win Best Picture, Barkhad Abdi stands a solid chance of winning Best Supporting Actor.

In what country could someone win an Oscar in their debut performance?


“Maybe in America, Irish, maybe in America.”

2.5 out of 5 stars


  1. I completely lost interest once the story moved to the lifeboat. You’re right…this movie was way too long

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