movie film review | chris tookey

Captain Phillips

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  Captain Phillips Review
Tookey's Rating
6 /10
Average Rating
7.57 /10
Tom Hanks , Barkhad Abdi , Catherine Keener
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Directed by: Paul Greengrass
Written by: Billy Ray, based on Richard Phillips's autobiographical book, A Captain's Duty

Released: 2013
Origin: US
Colour: C
Length: 134

Surprisingly conventional kidnap movie.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be kidnapped by Somali pirates? Paul Greengrassís movie will take you there and put you through the emotional ringer. Decently and professionally made, itís never boring. A lot of the time, itís downright gruelling.

A real-life kidnap in 2009 is seen mostly through the eyes of Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks), a paunchy, middle-aged sea captain whose freighter was boarded by Somali pirates and who then underwent the terrifying personal experience of being taken captive and used as a hostage.

Shot by Greengrass with his usual shaky-cam documentary realism, the film is involving, gripping and makes slightly more effort than most Hollywood films would to understand the motivation of the pirates. By the end, as they face the might of the US navy with virtually no chance of survival, it is hard not to feel a bit sorry for them.

Hanks is always watchable despite a script that gives him little back story. Itís refreshing to see an American movie where the hero doesnít resort immediately to violence, but uses guile and intelligence to survive. 134 minutes is long for an action movie, but the strongest scene comes in the final ten minutes, when Phillips finally appreciates the horror of all he has gone through. Hanks has given some mediocre performances of late, but here he pulls out all the emotional stops.

By coincidence, there has been another film recently released about a boat hijacked by Somali pirates, the Danish movie A Hijacking. Although the European film is low-budget and lacking in conventional thrills, it feels more psychologically accurate and nuanced about the piratesí motivation. As a result, itís much more original and enthralling. It also takes the time to explore the business side of negotiating with terrorists, in all its moral and legal complexity.

The most disappointing aspect of Captain Phillips, despite its big budget, directorial flair and strong central performance, is how uninspired it ends up being, how hidebound by Hollywood action movie conventions. The pirates are portrayed ultimately as naive, foolish and unable to control their tempers, like hyperactive children with guns. Maybe thatís how they really were, but it doesnít make for great dramatic conflict. These guys are always going to lose.

Despite Greengrassís left-wing beliefs, the film ends up as a gung-ho celebration of the American navy and a dire warning to the third world not to mess with a trigger-happy superpower. Iím not sure that was the movie Greengrass intended to make, but itís the one thatís up there on the screen.

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