WATCH: Director Paul Greengrass on Humanizing Pirates in ‘Captain Phillips’

Director Paul Greengrass and star Tom Hanks at the premiere for 'Captain Phillips' (Photo: Eric Charbonneau/Invision for Sony Pictures/AP Images)

Director Paul Greengrass and star Tom Hanks at the premiere for ‘Captain Phillips’ (Photo: Eric Charbonneau/Invision for Sony Pictures/AP Images)

The general verdict on opening night at the New York Film Festival was that British director Paul Greengrass had triumphed with his hijacking thriller Captain Phillips starring Tom Hanks.

His film is based on the real-life hijacking of the U.S operated container ship, Maersk Alabama, by Somali pirates in 2009.

As Greengrass explains, “It’s a story of four young men who paddle out from Somalia and attack a container ship, take the crew hostage, and the crew fight back.”

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What the director has put together is an extremely gripping docudrama. It may go on a little too long — and it may lack some depth — but it’s a film that works really well. Much credit has to go to Tom Hanks who gives a skillful and very moving performance, particularly towards the end of the film when his character is overcome with emotion. Hanks plays Captain Richard Phillips, who was held hostage by the Somali pirates.

For Greengrass, who can count Bloody Sunday, United 93 and two Bourne films among his screen achievements, Captain Phillips aims to appeal to both the emotions and the intellect. “The film’s a very intense, thrilling, dangerous, but ultimately thought-provoking story,” he says.

But it’s not just Hanks’ film: his character’s formidable opponents are four Somali pirates, and their leader Muse is very impressively played by Somali actor Barkhad Abdi.

The pirates, although ruthless, were not overly demonized by the director. Greengrass says, “One of the things I tried to do in this film was to remove the preconceptions that people have about these events, try to depict it for what it is, in the hope that if you tell the story in that way, that you will come to see a common humanity.”