Monday, October 21, 2013

Movie with Abe: Captain Phillips

Captain Phillips
Directed by Paul Greengrass
Released October 11, 2013

Director Paul Greengrass earned an Oscar nomination for Best Director in 2006 for helming “United 93,” a somber recreation of the struggle that occurred on board a plane hijacked and headed for Washington, D.C. on September 11th, 2001. Greengrass’ latest film, which stars Hollywood’s most likeable actor, Tom Hanks, is a fitting companion piece, a matter-of-fact adaptation of real-life events done without much cinematic flair. Like “United 93,” this film is deeply involving and thrilling, adept at turning nonfiction into a compelling story without making it seem excessively dramatic or staged.

Tom Hanks made a reputation for himself playing nice guys, sometimes in comic scenarios, like “Big,” and other times in more serious projects such as “Saving Private Ryan.” Hanks steps up here to play the surly, protocol-pounding Captain Rich Phillips, who was assigned a shipping route from Oman to Kenya which put him and his ship directly in the path of Somalian pirates looking for an easy score and a big payday. Though he’s gruffer than usual, Hanks still has that incredible charm, which works to his advantage as the captain who previously disciplined his crew for taking overlong coffee breaks puts himself in harm’s way to defend every one of them.

While “Captain Phillips” is very comparable to “United 93,” it’s also well-described as a more natural version of “Die Hard” or “Speed,” an action film that never lets up, keeping its audiences on the edge of their seats for the entire duration of the film. At two hours and fifteen minutes, this is not a quick ride, but as soon as Captain Phillips boards his ship, the pace of the film doesn’t let up. Its events aren’t meant purely to thrill, and the Somalian pirates are introduced well before they arrive on the ship, putting weight on telling the full story rather than focusing on creating artificial suspense.

“Captain Phillips” is an excellent instance of how a true story can be put on screen without doing any disservice to what actually happened. While certain events are sure to be exaggerated, Greengrass and screenwriter Billy Ray tackle the subject matter with respect and admiration. Hanks leads a committed ensemble, which includes a standout performance from Somalian-born actor Barkhad Abdi as the lead pirate who goes head-to-head with Phillips during their confrontation. This is a top-notch thriller that succeeds primarily because of the quality of its filming and story.


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