Directed by: Paul Greengrass Cast: Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi, Barkhad Abdirahman Running Time: 2 hr 14 mins Rating: PG-13 Release Date: October 11, 2013
PLOT: The true story of a supply boat captain's (Hanks) interaction with Somali pirates (led by Abdi).
WHO'S IT FOR? Fans of Tom Hanks, and those looking for a complex brand of thriller.
Captain Phillips is the portrait of a clash between two men and their crews. One from Vermont, the other from Somalia, they both have business for a boatload that exceeds their own understanding; goods they have little business with, and will hardly get to enjoy themselves. Eventually, with the threat of someone more powerful lingering over them, they are both trying to survive.
After years of doing lighter fare, Hanks kicks back into Cast Away gear, using the type of charisma in spirit that made him instantly likable opposite a blood volleyball. Answering to a gun put to his face with a businessman's mentality, Hanks shows power as the ships Captain, with the trauma building inside. Such makes his final scene, an explosion of sustained pain, an uncomfortable type of spectacle (and sigh, yes, his next Oscar reel). For such a confident role and portrayal, his final on-screen moments end the film on a note more more complicated than might be expected.
He meets his match in Muse (Abdi), a newcomer with an often blank expression, but an expressive face. He stands vividly as a hint at the power a human can ascertain when hiding their courage (or lack thereof) behind a weapon. Watching encounter Phillips' mindgames is interesting, but the intriguing question lies deeper underneath: what are Muse's limits to displaying his power?
With his previous shaky camera work earning infamy in two Jason Bourne movies, seasickness is avoided in Greengrass' latest film. His camera moves freely, but is controlled by editing, which allows the natural details in this story to breathe with pacing that is gradual and always unpredictable.
The tension created with the cutting of Captain Phillips receives its defining color with a score from Hans Zimmer apprentice Henry Jackman. Calling attention with indeed Zimmer-esque orchestral explosions, Jackman's score provides a tick-tick-tick-ticking clock to scenes that lead on the viewer with no sense of guaranteed security.
Captain Phillips would probably ring of jingoism were it not for the direction of Paul Greengrass. Its action is stripped bare. Yes, he runs through a SEALs procedure to the same length of Zero Dark Thirty's third act, but this isn't a cut-and-dry international thriller about America's guaranteed odds of winning. That these pirates have a home of which to refer back to isn't just the end. It's that there is a constant stress on their own uncomfortable situation, a constant resistance against archetype. Similarly, Captain Phillips doesn't reconcile its final moments with flag-waving, but instead an observance of tragedy. Now, imagine what Paul Greengrass could do if he directed a White House invasion film?
FINAL SCORE: 7/10