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Review: Captain Phillips

Captain Phillips 2013
Official Movie Poster

Captain Phillips


First let me start by saying that I in no way mean for this review to sound negative. I appreciate the fact that this is a true story and can’t imagine having gone through what Captain Richard Phillips went through during the hijacking and kidnapping which took place in 2009. I also realize that the team who made this movie is exceptional. Tom Hanks in the leading role (you can’t go wrong there), Paul Greengrass in the director’s chair (you might most recognize his name from the Bourne series), and a completely wonderful score by Henry Jackman, best known for The Dark Knight, collaborations with Hans Zimmer, Al Clay, and Jack Doleman. However, I was surprised that it was up for six nominations in the upcoming 86th Academy Awards. There are only two nominations that stuck out to me when viewing the list of nominees that in my humble opinion seemed fair.

Firstly, Best Adapted Screenplay. The writing done by Billy Ray was incredible and we can trust very accurate. Adapting the screenplay off Captain Phillips own work, "A Captain's Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS, and Dangerous Days at Sea” and also from constant contact with the Captain about events. The script never felt forced. It didn’t have the usual Hollywood plot twists or character reveals. It was straight forward; I felt it stayed consistent throughout the movie. You applaud the Captain and his crew for their resourcefulness and bravery while at the same time never viewing the pirates as no-soul-vagabonds. It showed the audience the desperation of these men and what trying to survive will drive you to, but it didn’t necessarily push you to the point that you suffered from Stockholm syndrome. You understood that justice needed serving without becoming a heartless viewer.

This largely was because of the way that Captain Phillips’ relationship with his captors evolved. He, being a family man, understood the desperation of the pirates and throughout the movie played on the basic human emotions of his captors. In the very beginning of the movie Captain Phillips reveals to his wife the worry he carries for his son – competing with “fifty men for the same job”, we understand as Americans the truth to this statement. In the very next scene we see a village in Somalia with fifty or more men lobbying for a position on the pirate boat. So we already have this picture that, at the end of it all, we all want the same things – peace, prosperity, and love.

Secondly, Best Supporting Actor. Barkhad Abdi plays Abduwali Muse, the Somalian captain who is responsible for the pirate attack. I watched this movie and literally believed this character from the moment you see him to the last. We see a myriad of emotions that drive him to make decisions that ultimately become devastating to him and his crew. Fear, greed, but his downfall ended up being his pride. “I’ve come too far to stop now.” He says when the Captain is pleading with him to just end it.

Overall, this movie is really, really good. The end with the navy and the shot to end it all – is fantastic. Put up against the other movies nominated for Best Motion Picture, I’d be glad to see 12 Years a Slave win or this. Compared to other Tom Hanks movies, it doesn’t really make him shine (but maybe that’s because he’s just so good in everything). I enjoyed the movie, but prepare to hunker in for a good long sit, a 134 minute sit to be exact. This movie is worth watching, but it’s not in my favorite “based on actual events” movie list. Which, yes, even surprised me.