Friday, October 11, 2013

Captain Phillips Movie Review

Tom Hanks stars as/in Captain Phillips

Captain Phillips: All Aboard

'This game isn't for the weak,' warns Barkhad Abdi's Muse in Paul Greengrass' suspenseful biopic Captain Phillips. He's right; and it's not for the faint of heart either. I needed two hands to count the number of times my blood began to boil, watching Somali pirates threaten, board and commandeer a U.S. cargo ship captained by the definitive American actor of our time Tom Hanks. Rule #1 to all you pirates out there... Don't mess with Tom Hanks! And while you're at it... Don't mess with the good ol' U.S.A. either.

Rotten Tomatoes Plot: Captain Phillips is director Paul Greengrass' multi-layered examination of the 2009 hijacking of the U.S. container ship Maersk Alabama by a crew of Somali pirates. It is - through Greengrass' distinctive lens - simultaneously a pulse-pounding thriller and a complex portrait of the myriad effects of globalization. The film focuses on the relationship between the Alabama's commanding officer, Captain Richard Phillips (two time Academy Award winner Tom Hanks), and his Somali counterpart, Muse (Barkhad Abdi). Set on an incontrovertible collision course off the coast of Somalia, both men will find themselves paying the human toll for economic forces outside of their control. The film is directed by Academy Award nominee Greengrass, from a screenplay by Billy Ray based upon the book, A Captain's Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs, and Dangerous Days at Sea, by Richard Phillips with Stephan Talty.

What’s Best: Hanks never fails to impress; and he single-handedly lifts Captain Phillips from "also-ran" thriller status to possible Oscar contender. It's hard to imagine what this movie would have been without him. Does anyone play "Average Joe" better than the two-time Best Actor winner? His performance at the very end of the film is raw emotion at its' finest: I almost choked up myself.

Kudos to Greengrass too, who has his work cut out for him on the high seas after his faster-paced Bourne Supremacy, Ultimatum and Green Zone. Captain Phillips is a different kind of thriller than we're used to seeing from Greengrass, but that doesn't make it any less compelling (OK, maybe a little less.) When the USS Bainbridge appears on the scene, I dare you not to get goose bumps.

What’s Not: One of the drawbacks to retelling a real-life story from just four years ago is... You pretty much know how the movie's going to turn out. This cuts the ensuing tension in half, making Hanks' sterling performance all the more important. That said, I snuck in a five-minute snooze when the action moved to the lifeboat. What can I say? I must have been tired.

Best Line: Hanks' Phillips wants no part of his crew's "coffee breaks," but you have to admire one of their rallying cries beforehand, 'I'll have two beers and a bucket full of sins;' but that pales in comparison to Hanks' 'Is that it?' when given the following instructions by U.S. Maritime Emergency, 'Get your fire hoses ready, and go to lockdown.'

Overall: I'm still scratching my head over maritime rules that prohibit firearms on ships traveling in International waters. You may too, as Hanks' character orders 'Let's tighten up security,' when a good rifle or even a crossbow could have put an end to the mayhem, long before it got serious. Captain Philips has enough holes to sink a ship (yes, pun intended) but they all appear to be true (hint, hint: wear shoes, don't make deals with pirates and think ahead.) The latter is especially important, given that Muse & his pirates took control of the Alabama on their second attack. Seriously, no panic room with water and a pile of homemade weapons?

I'm not in love with Captain Phillips as some of my fellow critics appear to be; but there's no denying yet another Oscar worthy turn from Hanks, and a solid thriller overall. Worth a look, especially if you're in the dark on what really happened.

Grade: B