So I think my quotient on tense movies has been officially met this week. I don’t think I need to go to any others for at least 2 years. Between Gravity and Captain Phillips I can safety say the last 3 days have been my most intense vicarious experiences ever at the movies. You all I know I loved Gravity and while not quite as strong Captain Phillips is a very good film.
It’s actually hard to compare the 2 movies because Gravity is a thriller. It is a fast tense where Captain Phillips is a slow, grinding tense. My only critique on the film is that it is perhaps 20 minutes too long.
Captain Phillips stars Tom Hanks as Rich Phillips, the captain of a Maersk cargo ship that is taken over by pirates in 2009. The movie is directed by Paul Greengrass who also helmed the last 2 Bourne movies and United 93. He is the king of the shaky cam and he is no stranger to it here. However, I think it worked in this setting. The camera feels like a member of the crew watching what is happening step by step.
Hanks is great as the somewhat grisly Captain who is not a born hero. This is no Jack Ryan type. He plays the part so that almost everyone could say ‘I’ve had a boss like that’. He’s tough but not cruel. A businessman at sea free of catch-phrases or inspirational dialogue. The interactions with pirates show that he at least tries to understand what they are doing and why.
The pirates are all played by unknown African actors and for the most part they are the searing evil you want in a movie like this. They certainly seem half starved and desperate. All of them, particularly the leader, are the king of the ‘crazy eyes’ where they thrust a gun out and look at Hanks like their eyes are going to pop out of their sockets.
It was good that they had them speak pigeon English but mostly use Somali. That added to the realism (such a cliche in movies to just give the villain an accent and that makes them evil). They go into the motives of the pirates a little bit. They talk about how the fishing is gone and so that is all that is left for these starving boys who don’t even get to benefit from their plunder but have it taken by their tribal leaders who abandon them once things get tough.
A good half of the movie is spent with Hanks and the 4 pirates in a lifeboat and this could have been sped up a bit but it is very tense. I honestly wasn’t sure how they were going to get him out of there. (Of course, I know that they do because of I remember when the event happened).
I also appreciated that there wasn’t any Spielberg-like touches with soaring music and grand speeches. It all felt very real and tense. Spielberg and John Williams- take note!
I really liked Captain Phillips and think it is one that is improved by viewing in the theater.
Lastly, Tom Hanks should get an Oscar for this performance. He at least should be nominated. It is so much better than the 2 performances he won Oscars for. He commands the screen and is playing a person not a character.
You should all see it!
As far as content- there is some mild profanity, tense situations and violence but it is certainly appropriate for any mature teen.