FLIX PIX (104): “A Harrowing Ordeal With CAPTAIN PHILLIPS”



(directed by Paul Greengrass, 2013)

**** (out of 5)


> Again, extraordinary cinema technician Paul Greengrass manages to wring breathless tension from a story we already know well, and that’s an unusual talent.  These events are recent history.  The media was all over them at the time.  Anybody paying attention already knows the story of hijacking by Somali pirates and the hostage taking of the titular captain.  As in his 9-11 film UNITED 93 the ending is no surprise.  Captain Phillip’s muscular rescue by U.S. Navy Seals was highly glorified in the news and celebrated by all.  The fact that there is so much tension in the telling anyway, is a remarkable achievement.

. Again, Tom Hanks proves himself among the greatest actors in the medium, with a quiet, intense performance that feels very real and raw.  It is a testament to his great skill that his best performance comes after the rescue, when one would think all dramatic tension would be dissipated.  His portrayal of a man in shock is shocking in its verisimilitude.  The non-professional actors playing the four pirates are just about perfect, especially their leader Muse, who gives a performance that is both menacing and a little sympathetic.  Pains are taken to establish that these are not necessarily bad men, just men in such a bad situation that they don’t see any other path to survival.  Once fishermen, the formerly rich fishing waters of the Somali Basin have been decimated by giant factory trawlers, that swallowed up all the catch and sailed away, taking with it, their bare sustenance livelihoods, and leaving the warlords in charge economically.

. This film was an exciting trip, but I do have one beef with it- a beef with every Paul Greengrass film I’ve ever seen: This is a director who has mysteriously never been introduced to the simple technology of a camera tripod.  Nearly every shot is hand held, showing no sign of a steady-cam.  It’s his signature look: annoyingly shaky, nausea-inducing camerawork edited in tight, choppy bits to evoke tension.  Enough already!  I made the mistake of sitting a row or two too close to the screen, and for the first twenty minutes of this very good film, I wasn’t sure I’d make it to the closing credits.

. Glad I did though.  Tom Hanks was amazing in those closing scenes!

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© Kevin Paul Keelan and lastcre8iveiconoclast, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kevin Paul Keelan and lastcre8iveiconoclast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


About KPKeelan

Fool, Philosopher, Lover & Dreamer, Benign TROUBLEMAKER, King and Jester of KPKworld, an online portal to visual and linguistic mystery, befuddlement and delight.
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