Friday, October 11, 2013

Captain Phillips

In 2009, Somali pirates hijacked an American cargo ship bound for Kenya in the Gulf of Aden. After Captain Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks), along with the rest of his crew, was able to diffuse the immediate situation, he was taken aboard one of the ship's lifeboats and held hostage during a lengthy standoff with the U.S. Navy. With Captain Phillips, director Paul Greengrass takes another major, harrowing recent news story and is able to generate great tension through stark realism as he did to superb effect in United 93.  Hanks has achieved such a level of stardom that now makes it hard for him to disappear into his roles or possibly for an audience to take him seriously (at my showing, there were scenes where crowd members, myself included, laughed at parts that probably weren't intended to be comical), but he nonetheless does an excellent job depicting a career sailor, and particularly shines in the concluding sequences which show his character going into shock. Barkhad Abdi also turns in a fine performance as the affable leader of the Somalis. My one minor gripe (which is very minor considering how well it is shot) is with the length of the lifeboat sequence, which reminded me of the airport scene in Argo where a pivotal climatic scene is being milked for every last ounce of tension despite a widely known outcome.