Captain Phillips is built on fear: no matter who is projecting it, fear is the driving force behind the film. It is a very tense film in all the right ways, and I found myself torn between rooting for the “hero” at the same time as the “villain”. There are no fancy effects, or cool space-age techno gadgets, just a really good story told by some darn fine actors.
When I was a kid, my brother and I used to play hide and seek in the house. As the younger, weaker child, it usually ended with me being chased around a small, enclosed space. It wasn’t exactly the “time of my life”. The first half of Captain Phillips puts that all in perspective: they’re on a ship out at sea, there’s limited lighting, and the “seekers” (aka pirates) have semi-automatic weapons. Suddenly my childhood is looking like a skip round Candy Land. Captain Phillips (Tom Hanks) is diplomatic and resourceful, and does whatever needs to be done to get the Somali pirates off his ship without any loss of life.
Tom Hanks is just wonderful. He plays the stern Captain, commanding respect each time he enters a room. You don’t mess with Capt. Phillips. While the other characters treat him like “the Captain”, Hanks’ mission throughout is to remind you that he is also just a person. He has a family, he has a job, and he’s just trying to keep it all together for the sake of his crew. Spoiler Alert: Hanks shines throughout the film, but his real moment of brilliance is in the final scene. He plays shock so well I was deeply moved. Mr. Hanks, I stand and applaud you for that performance. Spoiler-free zone:
The U.S. Navy also plays a role in the film and, boy, are they well-marketed. They’re organized, they follow procedure, everything they say (or omit) is to code, and they are so professional each one is practically a walking brochure. Comparing them to the Somali pirates, who fight, argue, and threaten each other from start to finish, would be like comparing a soufflé to a carrot. Captain Phillips is backed by a well-oiled machine while the pirates are virtually alone in the big, wide ocean…
…Which is why they are so desperate. It all comes down to money. The pirates are fixated on it, and you can practically smell their desperation. They each have their designated character-types (the Leader, the Brawn, the Kid, the Driver) and they all show their anxiety differently. The Leader, for example, shows it through quiet chatter and taunting, while the Brawn stares down his foe with wide, crazy eyes. They are always just shy of being in control, and the film does an excellent job of making you feel mixed hate and pity for them.
I would recommend Captain Phillips to anyone who likes a tense drama and who does not have a small bladder (the endless water scenes make it absolutely necessary to visit the WC beforehand). Captain Phillips is a captivating true story told by a dedicated cast. It earns my score of 7/10, and I am proud to say that hard core acting once again triumphs over high budget special effects.
This review can also be found at http://thecinemaid.net/2013/11/03/captain-phillips-2013/