Wednesday, October 09, 2013


Tom Hanks as the freighter captain boarded by Somali pirates.

You can listen to a podcast review of the movie below:

The word to describe the new Tom Hanks-Paul Greengrass true-life thriller CAPTAIN PHILLIPS is "tense".  You get about five minutes of mildly tense chat between a lovely decent husband (Hanks) and wife (Catherine Keener) and then we see him land in Oman to pilot a commercial freighter through perilous Somali waters to the Kenyan coast.  We then get about an hour of petrifying highly tense terror as a band of Somali pirates tries and tries again to board the gigantic freighter, and then another hour of killer tension as the US navy try to save our erstwhile hero, who's now been forced into a large lifeboat with the pirates - the key question, can the Navy Seals end the attack without also killing Phillips as collateral damage? 

There's no comic relief.  No five minute pause for reflection.  No calm waters.  Even if you know how this true-life story works out, I guarantee that Paul Greengrass' handheld up-close filming style will keep you on the edge of your seat.  And when you finally get that moment of catharsis - perhaps the finest ten minutes of acting in Tom Hanks' career - the emotion is overwhelming. 

Is the film perfect? No.  The opening dialogue between husband and wife is hamfisted - so blatantly shoehorning a discussion about tough times in post financial crisis America.  The dialogue on the ship in the opening scenes is also a bit "Basil Exposition", as the crewmates try to take us in babysteps through how a ship like this works.  At one point, if I recall rightly, Tom Hanks even says "walk me through the plan".  But one the film settles into the stride it hits an even-handed complexity and nuance that is truly admirable.  The chief pirate, Muse (Barkhad Abdi) is painted as an intelligent man with few options, boxed into a corner and never likely to benefit from the money he's making - something Phillips calls him out on.  And a particularly touching relationship forms between Phillips and the younger, shoeless pirate. 

Overall, CAPTAIN PHILLIPS is just what you'd expect given the talent attached to it.  Classy, intelligent, brilliantly directed, superbly acted, and deeply immersive.  And a special shout out to cinematographer Barry Ackroyd who takes us to the heart of the action. 

CAPTAIN PHILLIPS has a running time of 134 minutes.

CAPTAIN PHILIPS will be released on October 11th in Australia, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Peru, Portugal, Russia, the UAE, Finland, Iceland, Jamaica, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the USA. It opens on October 18th in France, Brazil, Ecuador, Ireland, Mexico and the UK. It opens on October 25th in the Philippines, Argentina, Denmark and Colombia. It opens on October 31st in Chile and Italy; on November 7th in Switzerland and Italy; on November 10th in Taiwan; on November 15th in Bulgaria and Uruguay; on November 20th in Belgium, the Dominican Republic, the Netherlands and Turkey; on November 29th in Japan and on December 5th in Singapore. 

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