Oscar Bait Season: Captain Phillips
Reviewed by Jordan Goodier
Tom Hanks’ second chance to be snubbed at the academy awards this year, is an action thriller biopic based on actual events that occurred in 2009; directed by Paul Greengrass, whose forte is action thriller films, and written by Billy Ray.
There are no spoilers for this film, because you can already guess what’s going to happen even if you haven’t seen the trailer and even if this film wasn’t based on actual events – you know how this film is going to end. The film’s main draw isn’t what happens during the events that transpire; its main draw is how these characters react to the situation they are faced with. There has been some slight controversy over how events are displayed within the narrative and how Captain Phillips may or may not be portrayed as more of a hero than he actually was. However, these sorts of things are always going to happen when making a film of this sort and they don’t take away from the enjoyment of it.
The film maintains a tense atmosphere from the moment the pirates board Captain Phillips’ ship and doesn’t let up until the final few minutes of the film. So there’s a good hour and a half there where you’re sitting on the edge of your seat wondering how each character will react to another’s actions. For an action thriller film, I’d say there wasn’t all that much “action” in this. In fact, there are probably less than five minutes within the whole film that could be counted as “action-oriented”. This inevitably leaves the film in the hands of the performances of the two leads in the film, Tom Hanks as Captain Richard Phillips and Barkhad Abdi as as Abduwali Muse.
Obviously, again, it goes without saying that Tom Hanks is fantastic in his role and it makes me furious that he was snubbed by the Academy Awards for two great films – when in my opinion, the lists for Best Actor and Best Actress this year are both (mostly) pretty appalling. But I digress. The real standout performance for this film is Abdias as Abduwali Muse. Thank goodness he’s getting recognition for his performance at least. He’s a real presence on screen and manages to make his character both (surprisingly) a little sympathetic as well as pretty terrifying. You’re left with the impression that Abduwali Muse was way out of his depth with what he was trying to do.
The supporting cast all give decent performances; I was surprised to find myself liking them so much, I wished that they could have had more screen time. I felt that the film relied far too much on the “free cam” approach to the cinematography, something that has become far too common in recent years. The camera moves all over the place and whilst I can understand the creative thought process behind the decision to shoot the majority of the movie without the use of a tripod, or similar, it’s all a bit disorientating from time to time; though the decision to do so does help to give the feeling that you are watching all this action happen on a ship (and then a lifeboat) at sea.
The stand out scene for me personally helped the film finish on a high, because it was right at the end. After Richard Phillips has been through his horrible ordeal, he breaks down whilst receiving medical attention. Seeing Tom Hanks break down made me cry big man tears. Fantastic acting from Tom Hanks and the rest of the cast, the cinematography irked me slightly but was decent enough and the script allowed for some great dialogue between Hanks and Abdias. It’s not that this film isn’t a great one, it’s that I didn’t find it quite as gripping as say, Prisoners.