Film Review - Captain Phillips (12)
Hanks and Greengrass shows us all how it's done
After such a positive response to my recent post "Top 10 Most Forgotten Films of the 21st Century (so far)", I thought I'd pull a couple of reviews from the archives for movies featured in the list.
This next one is "Captain Phillips" starring Tom Hanks. I originally wrote this review in November 2013 so some of the information (and opinions) are a little outdated, but hopefully you'll enjoy and find this helpful none the less :)
"Captain Phillips" is the real life story of a cargo ship captain who was taken hostage by Somali pirates whilst navigating around the Horn of Africa in 2009. There was extensive news coverage at the time so you may already know what happens, but even if you do, you should still watch this film as it's probably the best of the year so far.
Starring Tom Hanks and directed by Paul Greengrass (United 93, The Bourne Supremacy), "Captain Phillips" is the most intelligent and gripping dramatic thriller in recent memory and is a great example of multi-layered storytelling. It doesn't have an intricate plot with well-hidden twists and there's no scene-stealing character acting that's begging for an Oscar nomination, but the film covers every aspect of the story from the simple "bad-guys-hijack-ship" to the complex socio-economic plight of a third world people; and it does it all with a rare skill and finesse that only a small handful of Directors and lead actors could deliver.
Examples of this can be found through-out the film, but the easiest and least spoilerific are in the hijacking sequence. Lesser directors and films would either paint the characters in really broad strokes (Americans = Good; Somali Pirates = Bad) or try and be so balanced and sympathetic that they go the other way and get bogged down in multiple character moments that ruin the pace of the film and ultimately, under-estimate the intelligence of the audience.
Less confident filmmakers would also feel it necessary to over-egg the nerves of the crew by having multiple "looks" between each other or really stress the smarts of Hanks' character as he pulls little tricks and miss-directions to hinder the pirates' progress. But instead, Greengrass plays it straight and smart. He knows the audience will understand what Hanks is trying to do by lying about the condition of the ships engines and he knows the audience are aware the Somali pirates are 'real people too' because we've had three really well scripted scenes with them before they got to the ship. He knows he doesn't need to waste time showing us these things over and over, so he's free to let the power of the moments and the events taking place speak for themselves, and they really do.
Freed from the typical contrivances found in most dramatic thrillers, "Captain Phillips" is a brilliantly paced and powerfully acted film that tells a remarkable story and is genuinely moving. You would never tell that this is the first professional job for each of the young actors playing the pirates as they bring such presence and conviction to their roles. And as for Hanks, this performance reminds you that he is probably the greatest actor of his generation. It's not flashy with lots of shouting and anguish, and it's not 'worthy' with physical struggles and long monologues, but it's real and genuine and quite extraordinary in the final few scenes.
"Captain Phillips" is probably a long-shot for this years Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor Oscars, but I can tell you that it's a better film than last years Best Picture winner, "Argo" (Oscars, 2013). They're both dramatic thrillers based on real-life events but this has something more. "Iron Man 3" is definitely the most entertaining film of the year so far, but "Captain Phillips" is unquestionably the best.
I hope you've enjoyed this review from the archives and I would love it if you could help spread the word with a social share below. You can also follow me @matthewrbuck on Instagram and Twitter for updates on all new stories. Take care!