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Captain Phillips

Posted by martinteller on February 11, 2014

I avoided this for a while, but I had a good reason.  This movie’s release was very soon after the release of the Danish film A Hijacking, which I had seen and enjoyed.  Given the similar subject matter, I wanted to wait a bit to avoid too many potentially unfair comparisons.  But they’re really quite different films.  While Lindholm is focused on the use of human lives as bargaining chips, Greengrass goes much more in the direction of straight thriller.  As we’ve seen in United 93, he’s capable of doing this very, very effectively and without cheapening the material.  While I’m not as much of a fan of his Bourne sequels, he puts that handheld camera action to superb use here, heightening the chaos and claustrophobia of the situation.

It’s a really thrilling movie.  It takes an abrupt turn halfway through that I won’t spoil because I didn’t expect it at all… again, perhaps, based on my preconceived notion that it would be too much like A Hijacking.  In fact, I’d say it’s a better — or at least more gripping — film than its Danish counterpart because it doesn’t have any of the pacing issues.  The viewer is thrust from one dilemma to the next, always with a bit of hope that somehow the Somalis won’t capture the ship, somehow they’ll just take the money and leave, somehow the crew will vanquish them and everything will be okay.  This ability to create tension where there shouldn’t be any, where we know what’s going to happen, is the sign of a quality thriller.  It goes without saying that Hanks is terrific (especially in the rightfully lauded final 10 minutes), as are the four young men playing the pirates.

Just one thing.  Maybe this is just me being a hypersensitive liberal, leaping to the defense of those who didn’t ask to be defended, but I find it mildly (very mildly) distressing that Paul Greengrass has made two movies about brown people taking violent action against white people.  Two isn’t enough to establish a pattern, but if I recall correctly, there was a little of that in one of the Bourne movies as well.  Even though both Phillips and U93 do a good job of humanizing the antagonist, it makes you wonder if there’s a certain mindset at work, if only subconsciously.  On the other hand, I haven’t seen Green Zone, but it sounds like it might take the opposite view (or is it more of the same? let me know).

That’s not a knock against the film, though, just a sidenote.  I really thought this was an excellent piece of work that kept me on the edge of my seat.  Rating: Very Good (87)


4 Responses to “Captain Phillips”

  1. nancy said

    Tom Hanks’ performance in the last ten minutes blew my mind. I read a lot of complaints about his accent (I don’t know Boston accents well enough to be bothered), but that complaint seemed to pale in front of the last ten minutes in any case.

    • I thought the accent was fine. He utilizes a much more extreme Boston accent in Catch Me If You Can, this one was comparatively understated. And yeah, even knowing beforehand to expect something special in those final minutes, I was still really impressed.

  2. mountanto said

    Yeah, this was one of those films I was a little dubious about going in (I think I expected something overly portentous and/or generic), but it won me over. I really hope this gets Best Editing or something.

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