Movie Review: Captain Phillips


I have issue with movies based on real stories where I know the ending…mostly because it kills the suspense. Titanic: No matter how much Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet love each other, the boat will still sink. Marie Antoinette: She tells the French people to eat cake and then she loses her head. Joan of Arc: She inspires France and gets burnt at the sake for her troubles. Now, I know Hollywood takes a lot of liberties with endings (adaptations rarely end exactly as they do in the book or on the stage, etc.) But, even the fickle movie industry would never be so brazen enough to change the ending of a real life tale, right? Titanic 2: It’s Didn’t Sink will never be produced, right? (Well, hopefully!)

So, in Hollywood’s latest string of based-on-real-life movies (Dallas Buyers Club, The Wolf of Wall Street, 12 Years a Slave), one stands out for me, EVEN THOUGH I was pretty sure I knew how the movie was going to end. Captain Phillips is based on a book by, that’s right, Captain Richard Phillips. Chances are (and I’m just GUESSING here) if he was able to write about his death-defying experience, he most likely survived. Again, I’m JUST guessing. So, what does this tell us…that we know the ending. Darn, another Titanic. But, wait. Not this movie. Captain Phillips is a wild ride, a fast-paced, highly enjoyable thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Yes, we know Phillips will be alive at the end of the film. But, in this adventurous thriller, you not only do not care about the outcome, you get so immersed in the action, you forget that you know how it will end. This film adaptation of the 2009 hijacking of the MV Maersk Alabama by Somali pirates, which was the first American cargo ship to be hijacked in 200 years, is simply riveting. Is it the acting? Tom Hanks and newcomer Barkhad Abdi (Oscar-nominated for Best Supporting Actor) do an excellent job as the attackee and the attacker, respectively. And no offense to the actors or the writers, but in this case, I think much of the intensity of the film is owed to director Paul Greengrass, who is best known for his jarring, intense camera movements. His direction makes you feel just as claustrophobic, scared, lost, shaken and desperate as Phillips. Greengrass is able to keep the pace up, while keeping the story moving ahead. In addition to being rewarded by the Directors Guild of America for his work (he did not get a Best Director Oscar nod), Greengrass has once again proven with Captain Phillips that he is the consummate director of action thriller, as also depicted in his previous films including United 93, The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum.

Captain Phillips: 2013, PG-13, 134 minutes, directed by Paul Greengrass, starring Tom Hanks and Barkhad Abdi. Nominated for six Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing, Best Sound Editing, and Best Sound Mixing.

The Niles Public Library will be showing this film on Sat., Feb. 1 at 2pm, as well as owning it on DVD and Blu-ray.

Click here for a complete list of the 86th Academy Awards Nominations.

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