Friday, October 11, 2013

Movie Review: "Captain Phillips"

Ripped straight from the 2009 headlines, Captain Phillips tells the story of the Maersk Alabama cargo freighter that was taken over by Somali pirates, off the coast of Somalia.  The titular captain, is the real-life captain of the Maersk Alabama, Richard Phillips, portrayed in this film by Tom Hanks.  Often a movie star can ruin a film that is trying to be as real as this one,  but in this particular case, it's that anomaly where the movie star portrayal actually makes the film.

Captain Phillips is shot in a very gritty, realistic way.  The lighting is often underexposed and the camerawork is shaky, making it seem like you're watching an observational documentary of the real-life event, with only occasional Hollywood flourishes of subtle soundtrack to amp up tension.  At first glance, you might be fooled into thinking this was a documentary, relaying the brilliance of director Paul Greengrass, making the material seem more real and not so Hollywoodified.  As such, though, that is why the inclusion of a movie star, like Tom Hanks in the main role, was so important.

As an audience, we already have a pre-existing relationship with Tom Hanks.  By having an Everyman like Tom Hanks onscreen, it allows us to understand who Richard Phillips is without having to really tell us much about his personality or how he got to this point in his life.  It's one of those cases where a film takes place entirely in the present, with no flashbacks or long monologues to create character, so we needed a movie star, and Mr. Hanks knocks the role out of the park.  He's not so good looking it's distracting, and he is made up like a guy you could see on the street or walking around your local grocery store.  That's what makes him immediately believable.  Then, there's the simple fact that this role could have easily been one that a lesser actor would have chewed up all the scenery to try and realize, and you start to really appreciate the subtlety of the performance more and more.  While the supporting cast of relative unknowns and seasoned character actors are believable in their roles, this is Hanks's movie.  Though, newcomer Barkhad Abdi does get a few choice scenes as the leader of the pirates, Muse, even if that's the most any of the pirates get to do other than shout and point their guns.

While many of the characters in Captain Phillips lack much depth, in particular the pirates, the documentary-like approach to the material, and the sensational performance from Tom Hanks, make this film an intense cinematic experience.  As well, with a film such as this, where it's more about the now and the horror of the situation at hand, any detours to beef up characters, would have felt forced and untrue to what the goal of this film was.  This is a movie meant to give you the experience that Richard Phillips and his crew went through, and it excels in that arena.  This is why Captain Phillips is a film that should be experienced by any and all looking to have a little bit of thought provoked.  This is a serious endeavor that should be taken seriously.

I give Captain Phillips an A!

No comments:

Post a Comment