Monday, November 4, 2013

Movie Review: Captain Phillips

When I first heard about the Captain Phillips movie, I thought it was too soon. After all, the real life events of the hijacking only happened about four years ago. I didn't really think it was a good idea to delve into those events. But the captain who actually went through those events had published a book on the hijacking, and allowed the movie to be made, so I guess he was okay with it. In case you didn't know, Captain Phillips is based on the real life events that happened in 2009 when a U.S. cargo ship, the MV Maersk Alabama, was hijacked by Somali pirates. Despite my personal misgivings, I did go to see the film, mostly due to Tom Hanks, and I must admit I really enjoyed the film. It was a really cool movie.

The part of this film that surprised me was the amount of time spent on filling out the back story of the Somali pirates. Anyone who knows me, knows how much I love a good villain in a story. A well thought out villain adds whole volumes of depth to any movie and when the movie spends time developing the villain into a full person and not just a cardboard cutout designed to be chewed through, it makes the movie that much more awesome. The film did have a slow beginning as the director, Paul Greengrass, took time to immerse you in the world of Capt. Phillips himself. Personally, I loved that choice because it allows a much greater emotional connection to characters in the film.

And while we're speaking of emotional connections to characters, I really have got to give it up to Tom Hanks. It's the roles like this one that really showcase his talent. It's the rare actor that can believably transition from being in command to being a scared prisoner, to his acceptance of the certainty of his death all in a single film. Do you want to know why Tom Hanks wins all those Oscars? Watch this movie.

As the events start heating up, the pace quickens and the suspense really ramps up. A cargo ship is a really huge labyrinth and Greengrass delights in slowing things down by painstakingly showing a good portion of the ship as Phillips leads his captors through the ship. The resistance of the crew is done well and realistically for a non military ship's crew. Just as the tension of the pirates is palpable as they suspect Phillips of duplicity and becomes even more so when their plan for an "easy heist" goes out the window when the US Navy ships show up.

I watched this movie with a half full theater of people and I found it interesting that when the US military showed up, I had a very different reaction than the rest of the audience. As soon as the carriers appeared, I heard some scattered applause and a cheer or two. But when I saw them, I was with Captain Phillips and felt the bottom fall out of my stomach. You can see in Phillips' eyes the sudden realization that with all that fire power not only would the pirates would soon be dead, but also that he would be dying along with them. It was a particularly nuanced moment in the film, and it still sticks with me.

Unfortunately, I can't discuss the most moving part of the film without ruining the story, but I will say that if you're looking for a suspenseful movie, Captain Phillips would be a very good choice! Have you seen it? Sound off in the comments below and tell me what you thought of the film!

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