Richard Phillips takes command of MV Maersk Alabama, an unarmed container ship from the Port of Salalah in Oman, with orders to sail through the Gulf of Aden to Mombasa, Kenya. Wary of pirate activity off the coast of the Horn of Africa, he and First Officer Shane Murphy order strict security precautions on the vessel and carry out practice drills. During a drill, the vessel is chased by Somali pirates in two skiffs, and Phillips calls for help. Knowing that the pirates are listening to radio traffic, he pretends to call a warship, requesting immediate air support. One skiff turns around in response, and the other – manned by four heavily armed pirates led by Abduwali Muse – loses engine power trying to steer through Maersk Alabama's wake.
The next day, Muse's skiff, now fitted with two outboard engines, returns with the same four pirates aboard. Despite the best efforts of Phillips and his crew, the pirates secure their ladder to the Maersk Alabama. As they board, Phillips tells the crew to hide in the engine room and allows himself to be captured. He offers Muse the $30,000 in the ship's safe, but Muse's orders are to ransom the ship and crew in exchange for millions of dollars of insurance money from the shipping company. While they search the ship, Murphy sees that the youngest pirate Bilal does not have sandals and tells the crew to line the engine room hallway with broken glass. Chief Engineer Mike Perry cuts power to the ship, plunging the lower decks into darkness. Bilal cuts his feet when they reach the engine room, and Muse continues to search alone. The crew members ambush Muse, holding him at knifepoint, and arrange to release him and the other pirates into a lifeboat. However, Muse's right-hand man Nour Najee refuses to board the lifeboat with Muse unless Phillips goes with them. Once all are on the lifeboat, Najee attacks Phillips, forcing him into the vessel before launching the boat with all five of them on board.
As the lifeboat heads for Somalia, tensions flare between the pirates as they run low on the plant-based amphetamine khat and lose contact with their mother ship. Najee becomes agitated and tries to convince the others to kill Phillips. They are later intercepted by the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Bainbridge. Bainbridge's captain Frank Castellano is ordered to prevent the pirates from reaching the Somali coast by any means necessary. Even when additional ships arrive, Muse asserts that he has come too far and will not surrender. The negotiators are unable to change his mind and a DEVGRU SEAL team parachutes in to intervene, while Phillips makes an unsuccessful attempt to escape from the lifeboat before being quickly recaptured and repeatedly beaten by Najee.
While three SEAL marksmen get into positions, Castellano and the SEALs continue to try to find a peaceful solution, eventually taking the lifeboat under tow. Muse agrees to board Bainbridge, where he is told that his clan elders have arrived to negotiate Phillips's ransom. In the lifeboat, Phillips prepares a goodbye letter to his wife in case he is killed, while Najee decides to take full control. Najee spots Phillips writing the letter and beats him further. Phillips retaliates by wrestling Najee until Bilal subdues Phillips by striking him in the back with his AK-47, injuring him. Najee convinces Bilal and Elmi that Phillips must be killed. The pirates tie up and blindfold Phillips, leaving him to say his final goodbyes. As the pirates prepare to shoot Phillips, Bainbridge's crew stops the tow, causing Bilal and Najee to lose balance. This gives the marksmen three clear shots and they simultaneously kill all three pirates. Muse is arrested and taken into custody for piracy. Phillips is rescued from the lifeboat and treated. Although in shock and disoriented, he thanks the rescue team for saving his life.
Before the credits it is revealed Richard Phillips soon returned to sea after his recovery while Abduwali Muse was sentenced to 33 years in jail for orchestrating the hijacking of the Maersk Alabama, and the kidnap and attempted murder of Richard Phillips.Tom Hanks as Richard "Rich" Phillips / "Irish", captain of MV Maersk Alabama
Barkhad Abdi as Abduwali Muse, pirate leader
Barkhad Abdirahman as Adan Bilal
Faysal Ahmed as Nour Najee
Mahat M. Ali as Walid Elmi
Catherine Keener as Andrea Phillips
Michael Chernus as Shane Murphy, first officer of MV Maersk Alabama
David Warshofsky as Mike Perry, chief engineer, MV Maersk Alabama
Corey Johnson as Ken Quinn, helmsman, MV Maersk Alabama
Chris Mulkey as John Cronan, senior crew member, MV Maersk Alabama
Mark Holden as William Rios, boatswain, MV Maersk Alabama
Yul Vazquez as Commander Frank Castellano, commanding officer, USS Bainbridge
Max Martini as U.S. Navy SEAL commander
Omar Berdouni as Nemo, Somali-language translator working for the U.S. Navy as part of Mission Essential
Mohamed Ali as Assad
Issak Farah Samatar as Hufan
Uncredited:Hospital Corpsman Second Class Danielle Albert as Chief Hospital Corpsman O'Brien
Fire Control Technician First Class (SW) Nathan Cobler as Hospital Corpsman First Class Cobler
Sony Pictures optioned the film rights shortly after the publication of Richard Phillips' memoir A Captain's Duty in 2010. In March 2011, actor Tom Hanks attached himself to the project after reading a draft of the screenplay by Billy Ray. Director Paul Greengrass was offered the helm of the untitled film adaptation during the following June. A worldwide search subsequently began to find the film's supporting Somali cast. From this search, Barkhad Abdi, Barkhad Abdirahman, Faysal Ahmed, and Mahat M. Ali were chosen from among more than 700 participants at a 2011 casting call at the Brian Coyle Community Center in Cedar-Riverside, Minneapolis. The four actors were selected, according to search casting director Debbie DeLisi, because they were "the chosen ones, that anointed group that stuck out."
Producers visited the National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum to see the bullet-scarred, five-ton fiberglass lifeboat aboard which the pirates held Capt. Phillips hostage so that they could accurately re-create the boat and interiors for the set. They were also able to view an example of the Boeing Insitu ScanEagle UAV used to monitor the crisis, as well as the Mark 11 Mod 0 (SR-25) sniper rifle (the type used by the U.S. Navy SEALs), both also on display at the museum.
Principal photography for Captain Phillips began on March 26, 2012. Filming took place off the coast of Malta in the Mediterranean Sea. Nine weeks were spent filming aboard the Alexander Maersk, a container ship identical to the Maersk Alabama; it was chartered on commercial terms. The USS Truxtun, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer and sister ship of USS Bainbridge, served as a set piece in the film.
The film score to Captain Phillips was composed by Henry Jackman. A soundtrack album for the film was released in physical forms on October 15, 2013 by Varèse Sarabande. Additional songs featured in the film include:"Up in Here" by KOVAS
"Hilm B Hilm" by Musa Hanhan
"Wonderful Tonight" by Eric Clapton
"The End" by John Powell, a track from Greengrass' 2006 film United 93
Captain Phillips grossed $107.1 million in North America and $111.7 million in other countries for a worldwide total of $218.8 million, against its budget of $55 million. It made a net profit of $39 million, when factoring together all expenses and revenues for the film.
The film grossed $25.7 million in its opening weekend, finishing second place at the box office behind Gravity ($43.2 million).
Captain Phillips premiered on September 28, 2013, opening the 2013 New York Film Festival. The film was praised for its direction, screenplay, production values, cinematography, and the performances of Tom Hanks and Barkhad Abdi. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 93% based on 248 reviews, with an average rating of 8.3/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Smart, powerfully acted, and incredibly intense, Captain Phillips offers filmgoers a Hollywood biopic done right -- and offers Tom Hanks a showcase for yet another brilliant performance." On Metacritic, the film has a score of 83 out of 100, based on 48 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".
The film was nominated for four Golden Globe Awards, including Best Picture (Drama), Best Actor in a Drama (Hanks), Best Supporting Actor (Abdi) and Best Director (Greengrass). It did not win in any of the categories. The film was also nominated for nine British Academy Film Awards, including Best Film, Best Direction (Greengrass), Best Actor (Hanks), Best Supporting Actor (Abdi), and Best Adapted Screenplay. Abdi won the film's only award for Best Supporting Actor. The film was also nominated for six Academy Awards; Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Abdi), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Sound Editing. It did not win in any of the categories.
Various American critics have named the film as one of the best of 2013.
Captain Phillips was released on Blu-ray Disc and DVD on January 21, 2014.
In a New York Post article, some of the crew members of the Maersk Alabama accused the film of being inaccurate in facts and the portrayal of Phillips, claiming that Phillips was not as heroic as the film depicts him.
Mike Perry, the chief engineer of the Maersk Alabama, also asserted in a CNN interview that the film does not tell the true story.
The film's director Paul Greengrass publicly stated that he "stands behind the authenticity of Captain Phillips," despite complaints of inaccuracy with how the film portrays the events surrounding the hijacking, and "at the end of the day, it is easy to make anonymous accusations against a film [...] but the facts are clear [...] Captain Phillips' ship was attacked, and the ship and the crew and its cargo made it safely to port with no injuries or loss of life [...] That's the story we told, and it's an accurate one."
Phillips' first mate Shane Murphy stated in an interview with Vulture published on October 13, 2013 that he was satisfied with how the movie portrayed both Phillips and himself, and stated that he was only disappointed that the film didn't show footage of the crews' families at home or the president's comments on the hijacking.