I put off seeing Captain Phillips for a long time. From the previews and commercials, I joked that Tom Hanks was just fishing for a new Oscar. Even when the Oscar nominations came out, I was surprised and guessed the film depicting a recent big new story propelled it into best picture status. When I finally watched it, I was pleasantly surprised. The film became a fast paced, realistic thriller with a heart racing amount of tension.
The film is based on the true story of a 2009 hijacking of an American cargo ship by Somali pirates. Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks) is captain of the unarmed MV Maersk Alabama and runs a tight ship. Knowing the warnings for pirates in the area, he keeps his crew on their toes, running drills to make sure they are prepared. In the middle of a drill, two boats are spotted pursuing the ship and actions are taken to slow them down. It buys Phillips and his crew some time, but Muse (Barkhad Abdi) is a threatening adversary, and his crew are persistent. In a heart pounding scene with Phillips’ crew doing all they can, Muse and his armed men storm the ship.
Immediately, tensions tighten, Phillips has to think fast to help his crew and prevent any violence. A great amount of suspense is created as Phillips leads Muse and his men around the ship, trying to keep his crew informed without Muse knowing. When Muse has had enough, he and his men take Phillips hostage into a lifeboat, where they plan to take him back to Somalia. As Phillips tries to survive the cramped quarters with his captives, the Navy is on their way to save the captured captain.
The film reminded me of Greengrass’ previous Oscar nominated film, United 93. Both illustrated a hostage situation, didn’t shy away from the villains, utilized a realistic, almost documentary style of filming with hand-held cameras and the majority of the films take place in a cramped space. While I remember being very moved and terrified through United 93, I felt more curiously anxious during Captain Phillips. Though I know both films are based on true events, Captain Phillips felt more like a typical narrative with a main character I could find myself rooting and worrying for.
One aspect I was very impressed with was the photography within such a small space. The last half of the film takes place mostly within a small lifeboat, about the size of a large SUV. Inside are Phillips and the three Somali pirates. Though the air is obviously stifling for them, we do not feel so cramped. Somehow the filming here finds the right angles that we understand the space is small which makes the situation more tense, yet a sense of claustrophobia is avoided.
Captain Phillips is nominated for six Academy Awards. Among them are best film editing, sound editing, sound mixing, adapted screenplay and best picture. And in a wonderful surprise, rookie actor Barkhad Abdi has been nominated for best supporting actor. Somehow with the thick field, Tom Hanks was denied the Oscar nomination this film seemed destined to bring him.
All in all, Captain Phillips is a good film, especially for those who enjoy realistic, tense situations. It feels like it could have easily turned into a typical action movie, and I am very thankful it did not. Phillips’ story got the movie it deserved, one that the average audience can enjoy as well.
“You said you were a business man! Is this how you do business?”
Good review of what is definitely a good film.
Hanks’ snub is very strange indeed, espescially given his emotional breakdown in the final scenes. It would have been such a great fun fact if he had ended up winning though, third oscars to two actors two years in a row. Alas, it will never happen.
I liked Captain Phillips, though I think it drags in the middle a bit and it started to loose my attention. I can’t really say why, but at the end it picks back up wonderfully. It’s a good film, but not exactly my cup of tea and I’m not sure if I’ll be watching it again.
Ah, you’re right, no triple Oscar winners this year, through Bale may win his second. The beginning of the hijacking and the end in the lifeboat were the most exciting parts of the movie, I can understand how the middle can feel a bit dragging.
Maybe I should have stayed until the end; but there was so much yelling and really LOUD noise that it finally just became annoying. So this has the distinction of being the first film in many many years that I walked out on without feeling that I missed very much. Also, I just had to laugh when the crew went to repel the pirates and pulled out their big weapon–a water hose!!!!…and Phillips being so concerned about the guy’s injured foot while he is being kidnapped…ridiculous if true! No wonder that the crew is suing the ship owners in real life for their negligence. Am just not sure why this was considered a story worthy of being turned into a film!
Ken, I watched this one at home, so thankfully I had the volume in my control, but I understand what you mean about the loud noises. Hearing that the crew is suing did not help me want to see this film, but in the end I try to take in the film as its own unit and ongoing legal mess elsewhere.
I guess part of my reaction was disappointment because I was so impressed with Greengrass’ awesome and powerful UNITED 93. Maybe I expected too much
Good review Alyson. By far one of the better thrillers I’ve had the privilege of seeing in quite some time, and most of that can be chalked-up to what Greengrass does as a director.
Very true, I’d like to see Greengrass take on more films based on real events.
Nice review, Alyson. I really felt Hanks deserved an Oscar nomination here, but without it, I have my fingers crossed for Barkhad Abdi, who delivers (IMO) one of the grest debut screen performances…. If only he wasn’t up against Jared Leto, I’d say he’s a sure thing!!
Thanks Rodney, I would love to see Abdi win but Leto has all the hype. I sure hope Abdi continues his new acting career.
Yeah, Greengrass does do a good job of making a deserving movie that is also accessible.