By Lane Roberts
Tom Hanks (or should I say Tam Honks?) may have been the butt of the jokes Tina Fey and Amy Poehler made during their opening monologue at this month’s Golden Globe awards, but his performance in Captain Phillips is certainly nothing to joke about.
Hanks is masterful as Captain Richard Phillips, perfectly portraying Phillips’ harrowing experience during the Maersk Alabama hijacking by Somali pirates in 2009. However, his work was left out by the Academy of Arts and Sciences as they announced this year’s nominations for the Best Actor Oscar. His absence from the list of nominees is widely considered as one of the top snubs of the year.
The film, directed by Paul Greengrass, is a thrilling depiction of the first hijacking of an American cargo ship by pirates in 200 years. In addition to brilliant performances by the entire cast, the thrilling portrayal of the story was expertly accomplished by Greengrass and Barry Ackroyd, the film’s cinematographer.
Much of the movie was filmed on hand-held cameras, which followed the actors and created the film’s sense of urgency. The technique is favored by Ackroyd, who has a background in documentary-filmmaking.
Amidst grandiose sets, which included large cargo ships in the open ocean, Captain Phillips never strayed from the heart of its story, which is truly about an individual and his crew. This was accomplished by its cinematography.
Hanks’ costars include Barkhad Abdi as Muse, the ringleader of the Somali pirates. Though Hanks’ work in the film has been celebrated by critics and a Golden Globe nomination, media outlets have focused on Abdi, and for good reason. Unknown before landing this role in the film, the 28-year-old Somalian refugee from Minneapolis won the role in an open casting call looking for “non-actors, preferably someone born in Africa.” Fun fact: Minneapolis has the largest number of Somalis in the United States (who would have thought?).
Abdi’s own story could be a movie. Born in Mogadishu, the largest city in and capital of Somalia, Barkhad was six years old when Somalia’s civil war broke out in 1991. In an interview with CBS News’ Mo Rocca, Abdi says he remembers falling asleep to the sound of gun shots and finding dead bodies in the streets.
It was another year before he and his family emigrated to Minneapolis. Since then, Abdi’s life has changed dramatically. He went from working in the Mall of America and as a limosine driver to being one of the most talked about names in Hollywood. Most recently, he has been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
Abdi’s performance in Captain Phillips has been lauded as extraordinary and a force to be reckoned with, even outshining one of Hollywood’s biggest and beloved superstars. The much-hyped line that has become a pseudo-tagline for the film — “Look at me, I’m the captain now” — was ad-libbed by Abdi. Talk about a scene-stealer.
When asked about his life now, Abdi replies, “Just livin’ the American dream.” The captain now, indeed.