For a thriller, Captain Phillips is as gripping and compelling as they come. The thrill is at the expense of the real-life ordeal of Richard Phillips. The reason why the film scores is the supremacy of an actor called Tom Hanks. He returns to playing Tom Hanks after a long time. No, he doesn’t play himself instead of a character, quite inversely so. He returns to his comfort zone, which is not really comfortable at all and involves displaying an acting tour-de-force. He was coming back to form after Cloud Atlas last year, but he is not an actor for ensembles. We haven’t had a “Tom Hanks movie” since perhaps Cast Away (2000). Here, with a better film, Hanks knocks it out of the park.
Captain Phillips is mainly about a pirate attack on an American ship off the Somalian coast. The attack and what happens after that is riveting, even entertaining. Most films these days lose steam by the end but here the opposite took place. I was more involved and emotionally vested into the story. The thumping score is distracting sometimes but the command on storytelling is so strong that minor bumps along the way don’t hamper the proceedings.
Paul Greengrass, who directed the best Jason Bourne films (The Bourne Supremacy and Ultimatum, in case you’re wondering) makes this film tick like a time-bomb. He finally ditches the shaky-cam! You know that irritating, always-moving, unstoppably annoying, look-at-me-I’m-so-real method of filming? That. Not so much here! Another performance to watch out for is Barkhad Abdi playing Muse, a Somali pirate, the polar opposite of a certain Jack Sparrow we are used to watching. His character is the yang to Phillips’ ying. There is a dialogue he speaks, one of the first things he says to Phillips - “Listen to me, listen to me. I am the Captain now.” Boom. It’s not what he says, but the look in his eyes.
There are certain ideas that Captain Phillips presents. For starters, it doesn’t entirely make the Somalis as opaque villains. It bothers to make them real characters. The final scene (which can be taken for emotional manipulation but it isn’t) is what makes the movie. It makes you rethink about everything you saw before this. It makes you realize that every hero is firstly a normal human being. More importantly, it brings forth the reality of the bloodstains America is left with (no, a studio picture will never spell that out for you). This denouement could have been easily left in the cutting room but it’s there. Notice it.
As you can gauge, I was bowled over by the movie but I cannot whole-heartedly love movies like Captain Phillips, Argo and Zero Dark Thirty (to name a few). There is something about American films where white guys are heroes and the darker color is evil that ticks me off. This isn’t to say that the bad guys weren’t bad in reality but when it is reality, the filmmaking responsibility increases tenfold. There is a dialogue spoken in the film about Americans coming to Somali shores and depleting their fishing resources. Who will make a movie about that? When will Americans make a movie about why they create the evil that comes back to haunt them? This self-created victimization to milk heroic stories about themselves is something that will never ever go down well with me, even when it’s a damn good movie like this one.
I prefer Greengrass’ Bourne films over his United 93 (2006) and Captain Phillips. Green Zone (2010) was about something I was more interested in but then the script was not up to the mark and the shaky cam was the party pooper. There’s no denying that they can be seen as more important films than entertainers like Bourne. They have my recommendation but not my utmost approval as to what they stand for when you come out of the theater. All hail America!? No thanks.
This personal niggling aside, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t watch Captain Phillips. It’s a film that is pulsating and bursting with storytelling finesse. After Rush, Prisoners and Gravity brought great films back to the theaters and that too in succession, Captain Phillips confirms that Hollywood is officially on a roll. I hope you are rolling with it.view less