Captain Phillips opened in theaters on October 11, 2013. I wasn’t convinced I was going to see anything special when I went in. Afterall, there is a sea of over-hyped “based on a true story” movies out there that leave me feeling a bit green. I suppose I was mainly indifferent. A friend wanted to see it, so I joined him.
As the movie opened, we get simple and quiet glimpses of Captain Phillips (Tom Hanks) as he prepares for his next job at sea. I believe they mention something about retirement. The “pre-boat” scenes felt tacked on at the last minute and added nothing for me. I don’t recall being stimulated by anything other than the realization that Tom Hanks has aged. For some reason, I always want to scratch his goatee when he sports one.
Getting back on board with the review, I found the camera work to be a predictable, sloppy attempt at edgy. It’s like someone is trying to film from inside a running clothes dryer. I don’t find that talented, creative, or inspiring. I find it hard to watch. An early car scene had me so close and so shaky near Hank’s head, I felt like I was Michael J. Fox trying to tell him a secret.
I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed the pacing once the ship set sail. In a movie like this, with such a streamlined premise, it can be hard to sustain interest. I mean, you know what is coming, so it depends on generating your curiosity about the “how” instead of the “what” in regards to what happens. The director was effective in this. There were a few scenes that dragged and could have been omitted, easily avoiding repetition or distraction from the story.
As for performances, Hanks was certainly at his best, never forcing anything. By the end, his almost speechless scene had me near tears. I won’t say what the emotion was, but it was “real” and I felt what he felt. I never think much of him until I see him pull out a performance like this.
Also, to be commended is Barkhad Abdi as the pirate leader, “Muse.” I read that this was Abdi’s first time acting…ever! He claimed he had never even considered it until he saw an ad for casting calls. Sometimes that lack of passion in the beginning can work to an actor’s advantage. It keeps them from going overboard (I’ll never stop with the puns). In a film like this, subtlety is key to making the dramatic moments their best.
The rest of the cast was adequate.
Captain Phillips turned out to be a thrilling story, with strong leading actors.