Movies

'Captain Phillips' offers no breaks from high-seas tension

Oct. 11, 2013 at 8:14 AM ET

IMAGE: Captain Phillips
AP
Tom Hanks must use all his wits to battle desperate Somali pirates who take over his ship in "Captain Phillips."

Warning: Spoilers for "Captain Phillips" follow. If you're going to see "Captain Phillips," which opens Friday, better pass on the 48-ounce movie theater Coke. The real-life-based drama about the 2009 hijacking of the Maersk Alabama by Somali pirates is so tension-filled that there's just no good time to grab a bathroom or popcorn break.

If you remember the April 2009 hijacking even vaguely, you know how the real-life situation ended. But that doesn't stop you from feeling like you have no clue what Hanks, his crew, or the pirates (played brilliantly by four Somali-born rookie actors) will do next. Here's our ranking of the four most nail-biting, grabbing-your-seatmate, emotion-inducing moments from the surely Oscar-bound film. (Spoilers ahead.)

Moment: Phillips and crew spot the pirate skiffs approaching
While practicing a piracy drill, of all things, Phillips spots two speedy skiffs on radar, and they're quickly zooming towards the giant unarmed freighter. But this isn't like spotting a prowler in your alley at home and phoning 911. The Maersk Alabama is alone on the waves, hundreds of miles from help, and even calling to report the impending attack does nothing. The deadly game is afoot.
Emotion invoked in viewers: Growing, gnawing dread.
Best line: "There's no answer at the U.S. Maritime Emergency (phone line)."

Moment: Most of the Maersk Alabama crew hides while pirates search the ship for possible hostages
Phillips and two crew members confront the pirates on the bridge but the rest of the crew tries to play a high-stakes game of hide-and-seek. It's the equivalent of any Michael Myers or Jason movie, with the sharp-cheekboned faces of starving pirates as threatening as any hockey-masked ghoul.
Emotion invoked in viewers: Heart-pounding suspense.
Best line: Phillips to his hidden crew: "If they find you, remember: You know the ship. They don't."

Moment: Phillips, now taken hostage on a lifeboat, tries to swim to safety
It makes sense for a hostage to try and seize any chance at freedom. But Phillips has a long distance to cover in open seas, and the men trying to get him back on the boat can pepper the waves with bullets. The only place to hide now is underwater.
Emotion invoked in viewers: Gasping desperation.
Best line: Before Phillips makes his break, he tries to talk a pirate into letting him go, to this response. "I came too far, Irish. I can't give up. No."

Moment: Phillips appears to have only seconds to live
At one point, things turn increasingly violent as the desperate pirates call for rope to tie up Phillips, then jam a gun in his face while the U.S. Navy watches in horror, their snipers unable to get all the pirates in their sights at once. Here's where viewers who haven't researched the real events will be racking their brains to remember — does he get out of this OK?
Emotion invoked in viewers: AAAAUGHHHHHHH!
Best line: Before the film escalates to this scene, Hanks tells the lead pirate: "There must be something other than being a fisherman and kidnapping people." And the grim response: "Maybe in America, Irish. Maybe in America."

Image: Tom Hanks
Matt Sayles
The two-time Oscar winner proved himself first in comedy before becoming one of Hollywood’s most wanted men.



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