Monday, October 21, 2013
Captain Phillips A Real Life Gravity
If you have not seen Captain Phillips buy your ticket and go. It is one of the best movies I have seen this year. The movie has all the intensity of a thrill movie like Gravity, except in Captain Phillips we meet the characters, and you come to understand who the characters are. It is a truly amazing movie and above all it has Tom Hanks.
Tom Hanks has come a long ways from his very lame sitcom of Bosom Buddies to becoming one of the leading actors of his generation and is now I think among the elite of the best actors in movies. His performance as Richard Phillips is astonishing. It is understated and just his performance at the end of the movie is perhaps one of the most moving, I've seen. The mark of any great movie is when the actor ceases to exist, and the character comes to life. Phillips lives in Tom Hanks. It is easily the first Oscar worthy performance I've seen.
The movie is a taught, real life thriller, for lack of better terms and is based on Richard Phillips' book, A Captain's Duty. Anyone who remembers the news from 2009 knows the outcome when Somali pirates captured an American freighter ship. Failing to control the crew, the four pirates took the captain, Richard Phillips, captive hoping to ransom him. The kidnapping quickly involved the U.S. Navy and ultimately the Seals who came save Phillips. It was unique in that no ship of that size had ever been taken by pirates. Yet despite knowing the outcome of the real story, the movie captures its audience with its characters and intensity putting the audience on the edge of their seats without the gimmicks of 3-D or heavy duty green screen effects.
I know there is some controversy about the accuracy of the film but Paul Greengrass, the director, stands behind the research he and Michael Bronner did for the movie. Of course the events have been dramatized and collapsed for movie storytelling, but the facts, he insists, are accurate. The controversy comes from crew members who are complaining that the shipping company was too careless about the pirates and too close to Somalia's coast in its route. They have filed a 50 million dollar lawsuit so a movie which does not show this does not support their case. The real Phillips is also a witness for the defense. Regardless of all this, it is still a great film.
What is more, we care about these characters and understand even the pirates. They are not some random villains who go out and do bad things. We come to understand the lack of choice these people have to survive. Their costal oceans have been fished out by the large commercial ships and the corruption in the country goes deep. Or as one of the pirates puts it, "I have bosses." We see the pirates as struggling to survive. At one point Phillip (Hanks) turns to the pirate leader named Muse or "Skinny" played by newcomer Barkhad Abdi and says something to the effect, "There must be choices better than this (piracy)." Muse responds, "Maybe in America." The finality of the statement of this self-described "simple fisherman" is echoed when Phillips finds himself with a gun pressed to his head and says, "You're not just a simple fisherman anymore." We see the reaction of Muse in that moment realizing what he has become. Abdi, who had never acted a day in his life, is a Somali immigrant who came as a child to the US with his parents and was a taxi driver when he and several others of the small Somali community in Minnesota answered an open casting call. He is really very believable as are the rest of the pirates.
Overall, Captain Phillips is well worth the time. Go see it.