Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Captain Phillips



After watching the trailer, I thought I could pass on Captain Phillips. But the critics raved about it, making it sound intelligent, and it was made by Paul Greengrass, who has made some favourites, so I took a chance. I won’t call it a mistake but I won’t encourage anyone else to watch it. 

Captain Phillips stars Tom Hanks as a cargo ship captain whose ship is attacked by a small boatload of Somali pirates off the Somali coast. Phillips proves more resourceful and difficult than the pirates had hoped and things get very very messy. The film is based on actual events which took place in 2009, which makes the harrowing experience to which we are exposed that much more painful to watch.

Greengrass likes his handheld camera work, so I knew what to expect. In films based on a true story, I am more patient with this, and, during the last half of the film, the camera is used to great effect to show us the intense chaos of fears and anxieties that have reached the breaking point. The excellent use of the score also helps with this.

The acting is top-notch, with Hanks delivering his usual first-rate performance and the many unknown actors looking very natural. 

The problem with Captain Phillips is that it is really just a hostage-rescue action film, using the U.S. military (Navy Seals) instead of a SWAT team. Yes, it is an incredibly well-made action film with a number of features (including the powerful final scene, my favourite scene in the film) which lift it well above average action-film fare, but Captain Phillips could have been so much more than just an action film. There are brief references to the plight of Somali fishermen, whose livelihoods have been taken from them by multi-nationals, thus forcing many into a life of crime, but those brief references are nowhere near enough to get any serious message across. Instead, the message that comes across is that you do not want to mess with the mighty and magnificent U.S. military machine. Sigh.

I am going to give Captain Phillips ***+ because it does such a superb job of filming this horrific tale (especially by making it feel so horrific), but I’m still disappointed.

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