Captain Phillips (2013) (PG-13)
The commercials for "Captain Phillips" as well as the title, don't appropriately do the picture justice. From the trailers that seemed to air on non-stop repeat on any medium that you accessed two weeks before the film's release, it would seem that the plot of the movie was some twist of an adventure movie, humanizing the villain and making everyone seem like heroes.
Indeed when the movie starts, the film feels much like that.
It's a dull, grey morning in March of 2009 and Captain Rich Phillips (Tom Hanks) is going back to sea. His itinerary states that he must drive a cargo ship filled with food, fuel, and water from Oman and Kenya. If you know geography, saw the trailer, or picked up a newspaper at all during 2009 you know that this passage takes him right past Somalian waters.
So we know what's going to happen, and if you don't, you will after just five minutes of the film.
On the way to the airport, Phillips has a heart-to-heart chat with his wife and they reminisce about how fast life seems to go by and what their kids are doing. Phillips makes the comment that he feels like the world his children are growing up in is a survivor's world, where 50 men are competing for the same job.
We switch narratives to a Somalian village where a young man named Muse (Barkhad Abdi) is woken up by his 'bosses'. The fishermen are commanded by militia-esque men with more power and ammunition to take ships hostage, trying to get as much money as possible from these thieveries. So Muse choses a handful of men and they head out to sea, right towards Captain Phillips' cargo ship.
It doesn't even take fifteen minutes for the suspense to kick in, but once it does, it never lets up. Muse and his cohorts try to storm the ship, but Phillips is a smart man and he has enough cunning to stall them for an entire day; but everyone on the ship agrees that the pirates will be back. The men start to worry, which adds another layer of stress on to Phillips.
So deftly handled are the scenes on the high ocean as Muse speeds towards Phillips that you don't feel the minutes pass by. The film is entirely and ruthlessly engaging.
The action takes a drop once Muse and his three cohorts board the ship. I don't know why, but there's an odd plummet in terror and suspense; but there's more of that to come.
Phillips is left facing a man who is his equal. The movie portrays the story of two captains, both struggling to obey their orders; but don't worry, because we root for the white one with the nice family and not the one coerced into the situation at the end of a gun....naturally.
As much as the film doesn't try to condemn the actions of Muse, it does, and the audience fully accepts this condemnation, we agree with it.
Perhaps the only issue I really have with the film is its rating. Surely it's more intense and gritty than any other PG-13 movie I've seen in recent years. Plus if a film like "No Country for Old Men" is R than this should be as well...but anyways.
For being based on actual events, the film escapes the stagey feeling of a 'true story' movie. Barkhad Abdi is good in the film and it gained him an Oscar nomination; but Tom Hanks is the real propellor behind the film. His role is great and places everything the actor has done in the last few years to shame.
Paul Greengrass steers this thriller so well that you forget you're watching a movie. The second half is better than the first.
The film isn't completely faultless; but it gave a good shot.
Yes, there's the issue of little cliches found in the dialogue and yes, there is probably some fabrication with the events that Phillips had to endure; but I was okay with all of this.
The ending is all sorts of sentimental and the music completely rips off Hans Zimmer's score for "Inception"...but then again, it still works because they're working with one of the best scores ever.
"Captain Phillips" is so freakin' good. A perfect popcorn movie, with a little more heart to it.
I have an enormous amount of respect for Richard Phillips coming out of the movie; and (as crass as this sounds) I have an even greater respect for Paul Greengrass.
Posted by Micah Jones