johnlink ranks CAPTAIN PHILLIPS (2013)

CAPTAIN PHILLIPS is a movie I intended to see in theaters the week it came out. Last night, roughly 51 weeks later, I finally did. My desire was more subject than actor driven. Tom Hanks is great, but I haven’t considered him must see in awhile. Maybe this is a movie which would change that opinion…


I watched CAPTAIN PHILLIPS (2013) on 10.2.14. It was my first viewing of the film.

CAPTAIN PHILLIPS is the true story of a man who was kidnapped by Somali pirates after his cargo ship was hijacked. The movie gains steam as it goes. It starts with a quiet conversation between Phillips (Tom Hanks) and his wife (Catherine Keener). It picks up only slightly for a fire drill with a slow moving crew. This becomes more intense as the first wave of pirates, led by Muse (Barkhad Abdi), attempts to take over the boat. It gains more steam when they succeed. It moves faster still as Muse leads Phillips on a search of the ship. It escalates to its heights in a lifeboat.

With a movie based on a true story, it is hard to tell what is fact and what is convenience. CAPTAIN PHILLIPS is successful in making this unimportant. It presents its hero as somewhat stubborn, not entirely likable (the movie doesn’t touch on the fact that Phillips was sued by some of his crew after the incident), yet calm in the face of danger. He is fallible, perhaps allowing the ship to be taken unnecessarily. What makes him our protagonist, then, is that he is so willing to keep the guns and focus trained on him.

This is a movie which attempts to avoid turning the Somali pirates into faceless barbarians. Abdi is quite good as Muse. He is a young man trying to make his way in a world which has presented kidnapping as a viable option. He allows various levels of brutality from his crew, but they are not their to board a ship and execute. They are there to transact business the way a knight might have led a team of armed men onto a surf’s land in the Middle Ages to collect a tax. These Somalis are willing to use force, it is the way they know, but they would just as soon leave everyone alive. When the situation gets out of control and leads to the intervention of the US Navy, Muse comes across as a wide eyed kid who is too naive to understand the scope of what he is dealing with.

Hanks, also, is amazing. With lighter faire filling his plate for many of the previous years, CAPTAIN PHILLIPS comes across as a mix between the somewhat fatalistic Captain Miller of SAVING PRIVATE RYAN and the creative survivalist, Jim Lovell, of APOLLO 13. Any question that Hanks isn’t interested in really digging into a role anymore can be disregarded in the final 15 minutes of CAPTAIN PHILLIPS as he portrays a stressed man who breaks apart and has trouble putting himself back together in the immediate aftermath. There is nothing false in his performance, and that comes at the expense of portraying Phillips as some steel-nerved hero. It is clearly the right choice.

Paul Greengrass directs this in the way we would all expect him to. He keeps cameras in hand and moves uncomfortably close to actors even in moments of action. This technique, used most famously in the Matt Damon BOURNE films, sometimes creates confusion and chaos in beats of intensity. The audience is put in a place of being unable to decipher all of what they see. It adds to their confusion, which heightens the discomfort. Some people can’t take the Greengrass shaky cam, but it is an effective methodology.

CAPTAIN PHILLIPS is a truly strong film with solid performances. It maintains a high level of intensity while never feeling artificial. This may be the kind of movie forgotten within a few years, but it is one which will be nice to rediscover again if and when that happens.




FINAL SCORE: 7.75 out of 10



~ by johnlink00 on October 3, 2014.

2 Responses to “johnlink ranks CAPTAIN PHILLIPS (2013)”

  1. The best thriller of last year. Which is saying a whole lot, especially since I knew how it ended. Good review John.

  2. Really good movie!
    It’s in my list of best thrillers of the decade.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: