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'Captain Phillips' review: Academy Award hopeful returns to theatres

Tom Hanks and Barkhad Abdi from "Captain Phillips" together at the Critics Choice Movie Awards
Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images

Captain Phillips film

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After receiving an Oscar nomination for Best Picture, “Captain Phillips” has returned to theatres. The film has appealed to general audiences and critics alike, however, it has little chance of a Best Picture win against much more hopeful and heartwarming competition.

Based on the written account from Capt. Richard Phillips, “Captain Phillips” covers the events of a hijacking of an American cargo ship by Somali pirates in 2009. Capt. Phillips (Tom Hanks) heads to sea thinking of his family, and worrying about his son’s job potential in a competitive world, but is quickly burdened with an attack by two pirate boats. The Somali pirates have their own troubles that have motivated their hijacking. Committed to his task due to desperate situations, Muse (Barkhad Abdi) leads a boat to retry the hijacking and is able to mount the ship after an intense, frantic attempt to prevent it by the American crew. Phillips orders his crew to remain hidden while he faces the pirates, but his loyal crew members refuse to be victims. In order to try to keep his crew safe, Cpt. Phillips finds himself as a hostage trapped by four pirates.

The introduction to all of the characters is very brief; the audience gets an idea of who these people are by their treatment of each other. Director Paul Greengrass uses this emotionless style often in his action films, but the motivations of the film are unclear because you don’t know if you should empathize with the Somalis. “Captain Phillips” is as much about questioning protocol and what the Navy is fighting as it is about Phillips’ story, along with secondary character Muse. Phillips references concern for his son in the job market, but this worry is juxtaposed with the Somalis’ harsher world with similar concerns.

Action starts only twenty minutes into the film and hardly tapers off throughout, which leads to an exhausting, taxing viewing. The story never pauses, not even to develop the characters, so the more than two hour film is strenuous. There is so little connection to the characters; the film is a taut string of events in its entirety. Not even Mr. Personality, Tom Hanks, is very likeable.

The quality of “Captain Phillips” is clear and recognizable, but the film is hard to enjoy. It is a unique and contemplative story, but it is neither inspiring nor very entertaining. It still has a chance to win some of the more technical Academy Awards.

Rating for “Captain Phillips:” B+

For more information on this film or to view its trailer, click here.

“Captain Phillips” is only playing at Cinemark Carriage Place and the Screens at the Continent but is available for rental through Netflix or Redbox. For showtimes, click here.