Sep 30, 2014

Review: Captain Phillips (2013)

This is my first time seeing Captain Phillips and all I've heard about it is that it's fake and not true. Captain Phillips himself is an asshole and he was sued for knowingly endangering the crew. When it comes to movies though, they're just that. Movies. They can be based on true events but in the end they're entertainment. Unless the movie completely destroys the story that it's based on, I can easily forgive any movie that makes changes to real-life events.

Paul Greengrass is a director I definitely like, although he is partly responsible for making "shaky-cam" mainstream and unbearable. I think Hollywood is starting to move away from the technique thankfully though. There's pretty much no one who can do it as well as Greengrass can. You always knew what was going on during the hectic action scenes in his Bourne movies unlike what would happen in other movies with quick cuts and shaky-cam galore. It was a technique used to hide deficiencies for everyone else, not to heighten suspense.


Genre: biography, drama , thriller
Directed by: Paul Greengrass
Produced by: Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca, Scott Rudin, etc.
Written by: Billy Ray
Music by: Henry Jackman
Running time: 134 minutes
Production company: Scott Rudin Productions, Michael De Luca Productions, Trigger Street Productions
Distributed by: Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures Releasing, Andes Films, etc.
Country: United States
Language: English, Somali
Budget: $55,000,000
Box office: $218,791,811 (Worldwide)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi, Barkhad Abdirahman, Faysal Ahmed, Mahat M. Ali, Catherine Keener, Michael Chernus, David Warshofsky, Corey Johnson, Chris Mulkey, Yul Vazquez, Max Martini, Omar Berdouni, Mohamed Ali, Issak Farah Samatar


Richard Phillips (Tom Hank) flies to Oman in order to captain the MV Maersk Alabama, a shipping container headed for Mombasa. The ship's course goes through dangerous waters known for pirate activity, so Phillips orders for stricter security and for the crew to be ready in case they get boarded. Not long after a security drill, two skiffs show up on the radar. Closely following the MV Maersk Alabama's course, there's small chance that they're just fishermen.


I love how Captain Phillips opens and shows the two perspectives of both main characters. It humanizes them. Richard Phillips is a family man that doesn't really have time to actually be much of a family man. His job takes him away from his children and his wife but it's clear that he cares for them. On the other side of the coin, Somalian pirate Muse (Barkhad Abdi) has a rough life. He does what he does as a means to an end because there's nothing else to do. 

It's easy to sympathize with either character and I love it when we see both sides like that. It's what makes Richard Phillips a good hero and Muse a great villain. Both Tom Hanks and Barkhad Abdi are great choices for their roles and they come off as completely convincing. Hanks we know what he's capable of and he doesn't disappoint one bit. Abdi is the big surprise here though. He's completely self-assured and despite his skeletal frame, he's imposing as hell. Barkhad Abdi had been living in Minneapolis since 1999 at 14 but he looks like he was just recently plucked out of his birthplace of Mogadishu.

Paul Greengrass brings his trademark busy camera work, although toned down in comparison to Bourne or The Green Zone. I think it comes off as looking really good and fitting for this type of project. It looks slick but also natural at the same time. Most importantly, you never miss any of the action either.

Captain Phillips is really up there when it comes to taut suspense and tension. When the pirate skiffs first show up on the radar you can feel your heart drop. There's some great use of music during these tense scenes and the reactions of Richard Phillips and the rest of his crew seem realistic and genuine. It's a great teaser of what's to come next.

There are some parts of Captain Phillips that seem to drag a bit but that's how it should be. (Spoilers) This is specifically during the scenes inside the lifeboat when Phillips has been kidnapped by Muse and his crew. (End Spoilers) I would imagine that I would find time pretty long too if I were in that situation but while also hiding some tension below the surface. I don't fault Captain Phillips at all for being boring during those moments.

You can tell that there's been some drama added at the end but it's worth it. It's simply a wonderful showcase of Hank's talent. Overall, Captain Phillips is unbelievably tense while also treating its characters with respect. Although the story veers into Hollywood re-writing real life territory, I don't care. Besides a score that has a couple too many "boohms," this is a great ride.



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