I Saw A Film Today… Captain Phillips

captphilWhat I think I’ve learned most from the release of Captain Phillips is the lack of knowledge the average film goer has going into a film. Multiple times this week while working (at a cinema), people expressed not realizing the tale of Richard Phillips and his altercation with Somali pirates was based on a true story. This left me a bit slack-jawed to be honest.

It also lead me to my next disturbing discovery, which is the lack of attention the average American gives to news agencies. To be fair, most news agencies have brought this lack of trust on themselves by taking political sides and being biased of what to report on. But, this story was plastered across the news and papers, yet these same people have no recollection of it.

To think about it actually, maybe it’s not that surprising. A few weeks back a political show shortly after the Affordable Care Act went into effect, a reporter interviewed random people on the street about their feelings about it (brilliant entertainment by the way). What you find is there are people, average by standards, who still believe the American government are setting up euthanasia boards and all citizens are going to be required to get a tracking device implanted under their skin (An unsubtle attempt by the extremist religious community to imply President Obama is the Antichrist, by the way).

Ok, maybe you will remember this one:  Do You remember a few weeks ago when the war veterans walked around the barriers at the World War 2 Memorial in protest of the Government shutdown? Of course you do, it was all over Facebook along with that video of an obese girl attempting a cart-wheel and failing. Pretty patriotic and a hardy “hell yeah” moment (the vets, not obese girl). But then they posed for photos with Michele Bachmann, one of the senators behind the shut down. Not only that, not much later Ted Cruz and Sarah Palin led a rally outside the memorial and people cheered. They cheered for two more people responsible for that site being closed.

Has our society become so lazy and stupid that we don’t really care the source of our information? America was once a nation that, frankly, was smart and inquisitive. And we’re not anymore. We have traded our back bones for sweaty backs from sitting too long. Traded moral identity for a political association. Traded handshakes for hairy trigger fingers.

We have a problem, a disease, and it’s not a man with a lofty title in Washington. We are so quick to point fingers at others, but the true source of our problems can be viewed in a mirror. Or, I guess the selfie camera on our smartphones. Any ways… oh yeah, I’m supposed to be writing a film review. Huh. Well, let’s get to it.

Captain Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks) is at the helm of the Maersk Alabama, a container ship on a shipping run to Mombosa, Kenya. The waters are crawling with Somali pirates and it’s not long before a skiff carrying four pirates attack the ship. After an unsuccessful attempt, the pirates return and board.

With the crew playing cat and mouse with the pirates and Phillips keeping the pirate captain Muse (Barkhad Abdi) distracted, the ship is successful at overpowering the four men and forcing them to leave in the ships lifeboat. But the problems don’t simply stop there when instead of releasing Captain Phillips, they keep him hostage in the lifeboat.

It should be noted that with the release of this film, there have been new revelations about certain aspects of Captain Phillips’ heroic actions. Many crew members have come forward and stated Phillips knowingly steered through pirate waters to save money with no regard of crew safety. In fact, many members have said that the film is grossly inaccurate.

With that said, Captain Phillips the film is a highly entertaining thrill ride, which is all I really cared about. I didn’t really know what to expect going into Paul Greengrass’ latest  thriller, especially at the start. The first twenty minutes are rocky and unpaced. And while Greengrass pioneered the shaky camera voyeurism that made the Bourne films a success in part, here it didn’t work at times.

Thankfully once the pirates begin boarding the story really finds its pace and tense. It is a suspenseful film, not on the level of Gravity, but there are more than one moment when you question the outcome of the captain. Not a moment goes by where you drift off- you are always focused what unfold before you.

The largest reason Captain Phillips is a success is Tom Hanks. His performance is a reminder why Hanks is still one of the biggest actors working today. His gut-wrenching emotional performance in the final minutes of the film are enough to solidify him a legitimate Oscar nomination. Newcomer Barkhad Abdi was very good as well. Another one of the great accomplishments of Greengrass’ is how you feel a sympathy for Muse and another of the pirates. Does Abdi deserve some supporting actor recognition this award season? I believe so.

Is this the true tale of Captain Phillips? Probably not. But it is an entertaining tale regardless, and a film that will more than likely pop up many times this award season.

Verdict: See it!

* Rated PG-13 for sustained intense sequences of menace, some violence with bloody images, and for substance use. 134 minutes. Directed by Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Ultimatum, Green Zone).

** Thanks to my friends Cody and Monica for seeing this film with me.

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