Friday, October 25, 2013

Captain Phillips

Starring: Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi, Faysal Ahmed, Catherine Keener
Director: Paul Greengrass
Running Time: 2 hours, 14 minutes
Rating: PG-13

What “Gravity” did to your desire to go into outer space, “Captain Phillips” will do to your desire to go out to sea. The true story of Captain Richard Phillips’ survival after being kidnapped by Somali pirates is unbelievable, and I’m ashamed to say I didn’t follow the story more closely when it happened in 2009.

We meet Captain Phillips on the day of his departure. The hand-held camera gives you an uneasy, wave-like sensation from the beginning. If you get motion sickness in films with hand-held shots, sit on the back row. As his wife, the unrecognizable Catherine Keener has about 2 minutes of dialogue with him. Producers could have saved the cash for that role – we don’t even see a straight shot of her face. Actually, the camera follows the cast from the back for the majority of the beginning. I like seeing the characters walking towards me, rather than following them. I noticed this in the first 30 minutes, but became quickly engrossed when the hijacking occurs. Your brow will stay furrowed the entire rest of the film.

Barkhad Abdi makes his film debut as Muse, the Somali pirate leader. This is spot-on casting, and the chemistry between Hanks and Abdi is undeniable. Muse is a brilliant villain. In the first 10 minutes, we see the pirates’ motivation to rob ships – in fact, we see that they have no choice but to do it. It’s heart-breaking, how these men are forced into robbery as a lifestyle. In one scene, Muse tells Phillips that “maybe in America” you get a choice in what you do with your life. The cat and mouse dynamic between them is so tense and frightening. It’s a constant game of outsmarting one another. Just when you think Phillips has a checkmate, Muse spins the game in his favor.

Once Captain Phillips is kidnapped, the hellacious ride on the lifeboat soon spirals out of control, as the crew gets hungry, dehydrated and even more nervous. One line Muse kept telling Phillips was “Everything gon be ok. Everything gon be alright.” We believe that as dark-hearted as Muse is, he truly didn't want to hurt Phillips. He was just in it for the money. It’s “just business,” after all. Muse is the only one who understands that Captain Phillips must be kept alive if the pirates have any shot at getting ransom money. Najee is the most volatile of the pirates, like a cannon ready to erupt. His crazed eyes almost pop out of his head and into your popcorn.

The rescue took forever. Days. The Navy kept thinking they had control over the situation, when really, they had none at all. By having Captain Phillips, the pirates had the power. Discussing the rescue scene is really no secret, though to watch how they finally executed it was intense. Phillips actually went back to sea the very next year. Real life members of Phillips’ crew are calling the film “blasphemy,” that Phillips was no hero, in fact, an asshole. Regardless, this is definitely one you should see on the big screen. It will make you happy to plant your feet on dry land. 

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