Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Film Review: Captain Phillips

I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with Captain Phillips director Paul Greengrass.  While I loved his United 93 I found the Bourne series of films he helmed to be overly edited, rushed, loud and obnoxious.

Captain Phillips was far more in the United 93 mold than the Bourne films.  Tom Hanks is his usual solid self pulling off a New England accent with aplomb and portraying the real world Captain Phillips as a more nuanced character than we came to know through the news.  We do see that he may not have been the best loved boss, we do see his choice of taking a course directly through the pirate infested waters...He is not painted with a wholly positive brush...he's shown realistically which lends heft to the film as a whole.

Greengrass steps away from his rapid fire edits and constantly shifting camera angles and allows the story to unfold without such a heavy hand and it works.  You never feel like you are watching a documentary but you do come to trust the director to tell the story accurately and without embellishment.

The pirates themselves are rightly shown as khat addled, squabbling, dim witted lowlifes.  No, there is no attempt to show a "rounded" perspective of the Somali pirates so don't look for this film to show up on you local 9/11 truther's best of 2013 film list.  About as "rounded" a look you get at them here is that they are pushed to do what they do by more powerful warlords who demand that they go to sea and hijack ships for money--which they, themselves, will never see.

There is little violence here other than the very end of the film and most of the action takes place inside the characters heads and hearts leaving the viewer to observe much of the tension between the characters.  If Greengrass could stick with films like this rather than action-thrillers like Bourne I think he would be well off.

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