Friday, October 11, 2013


Making a movie based on a true event is a tricky endeavor, especially if the event happened recently. If the ending is already known by the audience, then you need to make the journey to get there worthwhile. Such is the task for director Paul Greengrass in CAPTAIN PHILLIPS; the true story of the 2009 hijacking of a U.S. container ship by Somali pirates.
Captain Rich Phillips (Tom Hanks) is the captain of a container ship delivering supplies to Africa when it is hijacked by a rag-tag band of Somali pirates, led by Muse (Barkhad Abdi).

CAPTAIN PHILLIPS is a one-man survival tale. The first half of the film takes place on board Phillips’ ship; from the pulse-pounding hijacking and a clever to the cat-and-mouse game within the complicated bowels of the massive ship. Director Paul Greengrass uses this opportunity to create an incredible atmosphere of fear and dread; so much that the film often dips its toes into horror-movie territory. Around the mid-way point, the pirates take a lifeboat with Captain Phillips and leave the ship, and it is here where Greengrass amps up the tension a thousand notches. Now centered within the claustrophobic confines of the lifeboat, Greengrass uses the tight quarters to explore the characters as they poke and prod one another within an impossible situation.
But what makes CAPTAIN PHILLIPS really tick is the portrayal of the Somali pirates. They are never shown as clich├ęd, mustache-twirling villains with plans to take over the world. As dangerous as they are, they are not really evil people and are just trying to survive. There is a fair amount of sympathy to be felt for the pirates, and we nearly feel bad for them once the might of the U.S. Navy enters the picture to settle matters.

Paul Greengrass must have friends in high places in the U.S. Navy, as he clearly had a great amount of cooperation to make this film. There are no artificially-created battleships and helicopters here, and Greengrass manages to capture it all in his stunning wide-angles. With a powerful score to back him and a pace of a thousand beats a minute, CAPTAIN PHILLIPS is a thrill-ride on the high seas.
For most of the film, Tom Hanks does a fine job of playing a man just trying to hold things together in a dangerous and hopeless situation. At the climax, however, be prepared for a surprising emotional wallop as Hanks suddenly turns in the deepest and most powerful acting of his career. It comes out of nowhere and catches you completely off guard, and for a film which is all about tension and dread, the emotion that Hanks gets us caught up in is welcome and very fitting. Hanks has never been better.

Between the strong sense of realism that Greengrass puts on screen and Hanks performance, CAPTAIN PHILLIPS is a ride which will leave you weak at the knees. Engaging and powerful, the ending, which is an historical fact, justifies the trip we take to get there.


1 comment:

  1. Totally agree with you Alan! This is a MUST SEE! In fact, I saw it twice during its first week! I must say, however, I felt it was every bit as good in Regular Digital as it was in EXtreme Digital at my regional Cinemark Theater. You can enjoy it every bit as much and use the money saved for popcorn!


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