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“Captain Phillips” – Review (POSITIVE)

November 8, 2013

[I know, I know, I know, I’m late with this review, I’m late with quite a few actually. October was a crazy month for me, working on a few film jobs, working part-time at Spirit Halloween (never again), and of course continuing my mundane life at Starbucks. But, I’m back, so lets catch up on some movie reviews. Yes, I did see this movie the week it came out, so I’m not behind on actually viewing the film, just the writing of the review part.]

Screen shot 2013-11-08 at 12.37.36 PMTom Hanks has given audience quite the lucrative career, and this fall he’s vying for that top Best Actor prize in two films, one of course is “Saving Mr. Banks” where he plays Walt Disney, the other is “Captain Phillips”, the title character of Paul Greengrass’ latest film. We’ve seen many sides of Hanks, but here, I think we see him at his most vulnerable, the last five minutes (which I’ll discuss later) is a clear indication for that reason.

The film focuses on the tension-fueled relationship between the Maersk Alabama’s commanding officer, Captain Richard Phillips (Hanks), and a Somalian pirate captain named Muse (introducing Barkhad Abdi), who takes him hostage. Phillips and Muse are set on an unstoppable collision course when Muse and his crew (Barkhad Abdirahman, Faysal Ahmed, & Mahat M. Ali) target Phillips’ unarmed ship; in the ensuing standoff, 145 miles off the Somali coast, both men will find themselves at the mercy of forces beyond their control.

Most are aware that Greengrass is a major fan of the ‘shakey-cam’ method, and sometimes it can be a little too daunting/hard on the eyes, (last 2 Matt Damon “Bourne” films). However in the case of making this film feel almost like a pseudo-documentary-style drama, it benefits quite well. Greengrass as an uncanny eye behind the camera, by immersing the viewer in sense of of metaphysical danger.

But the shining light of this film comes from the performances of the actors, the four Somalian born actors playing pirates based from their country, going toe-to-toe with an American treasure that is Tom Hanks adds a whole other level of realism. Paul Greengrass has cast many realistic actors or even the real deal before for his films, going with actors from Somali was the right call, giving us a greater stand of authenticity to the danger and character of these men.

Hanks does wonders in this film, but for me, everything that works so well, leads to a brilliant pay off, the final five minutes. Spoiler people, but unless you didn’t watch CNN 5-years ago, or didn’t see the movie, Captain Phillips is rescued. Hanks and Greengrass shot an extra scene, a scene that made it into the final cut of the movie, where Phillips is taken to the infirmary to be examined after be held hostage for days. Hanks gives us a powerful moment, where he has no idea of his surroundings, how to think, or even speak. He completely lets it go, all of it, and that moment in the film is a true testament to the acting craft.

The pacing is solid, the acting is great, and the story is sound, my only real complaint is that I wish we got to see a bit of Phillips family caught in the middle of all of this. Of course, this would detach the whole point of the movie where we the audience are standing by Phillips the whole way, from beginning to end. Still, it would’ve been interesting to see the families reaction(s), it’s a personal preference from this viewer, but something I could certainly live without.


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