Captain Phillips reviews

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Re: Captain Phillips reviews

Postby Sabin » Thu Dec 05, 2013 4:06 pm

If you're a producer and you find a newspaper clipping, nobody has the rights to it yet, it's not really a story but it's an interesting account of something that happened, you get Paul Greengrass. While Captain Phillips flirts with notions of post-economic collapse choppy waters and everybody having a boss, it's one of those pseudo-themes to keep the affair from feeling empty. Really it's a fairly compelling account of something that happened that makes as good use of Paul Greengrass' camerapalooza approach as anything I've seen. It's not a very good film exactly but I was surprised that I liked it as much as I did. With the exception of a few minutes lag & sag in the third act (somewhere around the two hour mark), I was totally gripped. I don't think this can be considered one of Tom Hanks' best performances but it has some of his best acting in the final scenes when he's in shock. Aside from how pleasant it is to see a Hollywood (ostensibly) action film climaxing with our hero's strength totally leaving him, it's just nice being reminded that not just that Tom Hanks can act but that I've actually missed him. Welcome back, dude.

(NOTE: worst scene of the year is Hanks & Keener in the car. ADR classes should use this as "What not to do.")
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Re: Captain Phillips reviews

Postby Precious Doll » Fri Nov 01, 2013 4:00 am

I saw this last night and was pretty much bored by it. Maybe I should stop seeing films like Captain Phillips, Prisoners and Gravity because none of them held the slightness of interest to me in the first place and to be honest they don't appeal to my sensibilities of what I find appealing about cinema.

Though Paul Greengrass seems to have limited his jiggling camera to some degree, there is still enough of it to distance me from much of the action. The film started out better then it proceeded. I can't deny that the scenes of cargo ship being hunted down and hijacked by the pirates very expertly handled. But once on board its pretty standard stuff from there.

Aside from Tom Hanks & Barkad Abdi, there is nothing much to any of the other characters. Poor Catherine Keener is mainly shot in her brief appearance from behind. I have never gotten the 'acclaim' for Hanks' career over the last 20 years. He is agreeable enough, quite adequate and has gotten better with age but is by no means I major actor.

I concur with Tee on Hanks last scene - it's the best piece of acting he has even given. I simply wasn't expecting that after everything that had proceeded it. I also concur with Tee that Abdi gives the better performance. Whilst he is a menacing presence, he is also very human and surprising vulnerable at times.

Despite my own ho-hum response to this film, I did prefer it over a Danish film from last year, A Hijacking. It too deals with the hijacking of a cargo ship, though it is not based on a true story. One of the things I preferred about Captain Phillips over A Hijacking was that the Somali characters in CJ are subtitled for the audience which gives the audience an opportunity to see things from their perspective. We get very little of that perspective in A Hijacking as only the Danish are subtitled and the only times we understand the Somali characters is when they spoke English. They were reduced to mere villains where at least with Captain Phillips there was some attempt to rise above this to some degree with Abdi.
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Re: Captain Phillips reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Thu Oct 31, 2013 2:17 pm

I the question is, does this rank with Zero Dark Thirty, then the answer is no -- but, then, I thought Zero was the best movie of 2012 and possibly of the decade to date.

Captain Phillips is merely a very solid docudrama -- a well-dramatized/shot/edited version of a true life event many of us remember from real time.

I agree with BJ that the early sequences on board ship were the strongest. Hanks leading the invaders on a wild goose chase around the ship was gripping, and Greengrass did a pretty spectacular job of keeping the audience geographically aware of where each sequence was taking place, not an easy feat.

You'd think the latter portion of the film -- the hostage situation and rescue -- would be even more exciting. But, in truth, it just seemed to go on too long, which was historically accurate (the real Phillips was in the lifeboat for a couple of days), but felt dramatically a bit deadening. Again to cite Zero Dark: that film's final raid of the in Laden compound may have gone on as long as this did, but it maintained such a level of suspense that it never felt a moment longer than it should have. Here I found myself being a grouch and/or Philistine -- wondering when the hell the SEALS would get to it. (In fact, I wondered why it took them so long to even get within range. When they finally turned up, my response was a snarky So soon?)

Despite all this, I thought Greengrass as usual directed with great aplomb. I loved the shots of the tiny lifeboat being dwarfed by the destroyers; it communicated wordlessly how overmatched these guys were. And, though I thought narratively the film went on too long, individual sequences seemed as well edited as they could have been. Rouse may be in line for another Oscar.

And, in terms of characters, I though both Hanks and Akbi made strong impressions, and communicated (largely through body language) a sort of affinity for one another's situations. The script doesn't reduce itself to mano a mano the way Rush does, but, even keeping the overall vast canvas, it manages to isolate its two main characters as sometimes two sides of the same coin, For the record, I'd say Akbi gives the more impressive overall performance, but Hanks at the end -- especially in that last scene with the doctor -- goes places he never has before as an actor. I'd thought, based on the last decade or so, that Hanks had exhausted any surprises he had left; I'm pleased to say he proved me wrong here.

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Re: Captain Phillips reviews

Postby The Original BJ » Wed Oct 23, 2013 5:52 pm

I'll be interested to see where folks fall in line with this one, both in terms of people's previous feelings toward Greengrass (who has been extremely divisive around here) as well as in terms of the recent Gravity discussion. For me, I've generally been enthusiastic about Greengrass in the past -- I'm still overall positive on this one, but a bit more mixed.

I thought the first portion of the movie worked best, or rather, the part that began once at sea. (The first few scenes were full of a bit too much expository dialogue, which didn't ultimately add much to the narrative that eventually unfolded. And I was surprised to see Catherine Keener in a role that consisted of what, two utterly thankless scenes?)

Things kick into high gear pretty quickly, though, and I found the Somali takeover of the ship, and Phillips and the crew's reaction to it, to be Greengrass at his best -- full of tense suspense sequences that rely on attention to the small details, and a lack of glossy embellishment that makes the narrative feel raw and urgent. The cat and mouse game around the ship -- which essentially becomes a giant playground for the pirates and their captives to play a vicious game of hide and seek -- completely held me, and the way that Hanks plays these scenes (attempting to show himself as a fearless leader, but letting the petrification shine through) gives them a weight beyond the tension.

But once the story transitioned to the smaller boat, I thought it dipped a bit. What made United 93 a special movie, I think, is that it took an event charged with major global, political, and cultural resonance and presented it in a way that brought out the horrifying simplicity of what actually happened on 9/11 to the people who most directly experienced it. By allowing the audience to see this historical event in a context almost entirely divorced from the way we had otherwise experienced it, the film felt truly one-of-a-kind. Captain Phillips, in its second half, felt essentially like a standard hostage movie to me. This doesn't mean it wasn't well-done -- the Greengrass version of this story is far more grounded in reality than the Ed Zwick version would have been -- but I can't say I found it inventive enough on a narrative or thematic level to be as enthusiastic as some critics.

And it's with respect to theme that I respond to Captain Phillips the way some of the less-enthused have towards Gravity -- finding it not especially deeper than its surface. The movie's main idea -- that America's dominance of the world's economy in fact leads to situations like this -- pops up briefly in dialogue, but the context is pretty clear, and I don't think the movie really explores this conceit in any revelatory way.

I did like the movie's last scene, especially the way Captain Phillips seems so overwhelmed by everything he has just experienced. (A lesser movie would have concluded in a far more jingoistic way.) But even there, I can't say it landed as emotionally as the very similar last shot of Zero Dark Thirty did for me -- Bigelow's film was, overall, a far more complex affair, and the thorniness of the emotions Jessica Chastain displayed in that last shot conveyed much more than Hanks's simple release here. As for Hanks overall, this is clearly his strongest work since Cast Away, in a role full of intense moments that anchor the movie. But, after Bullock in Gravity and now Hanks here (and especially Redford in All in Lost), I have to concede that I don't respond quite as highly as some to performances that consist mostly of an actor being terrified. I just don't think these types of parts really allow an actor enough notes to play to turn in a fully complete performance. I think Hanks's work is easily the best of these three performances, but I won't be rooting for him to win Oscar #3 this year.

And Barkhad Abdi could very well be the Lupita Nyong'o of his category -- turning in a very emotional debut performance and going from total unknown to Oscar nominee overnight.

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Re: Captain Phillips reviews

Postby OscarGuy » Fri Sep 06, 2013 1:17 pm

I think you have to look at each critic's personal history with Paul Greengrass before deciding to accept the reviews or not. For instance, someone who has lavishly praised everything he's done is to be discounted as is someone who constantly nitpicks him. Look for people with a tempered view of the director and you'll know precisely where it stands.

Also, you need to know whether they've seen "A Hijacking" which looks like it covers the exact same terrain.
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Re: Captain Phillips reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Fri Sep 06, 2013 11:19 am

Variety, a bit more mixed.

September 6, 2013 | 03:00AM PT
Paul Greengrass' kinetic docudrama always impresses without ever connecting emotionally in quite the same way as his previous verite efforts.

Scott Foundas
Chief Film Critic@foundasonfilm

Four years after it made headlines, the harrowing ordeal of commercial shipping captain Richard Phillips gets the bigscreen treatment care of verite specialist Paul Greengrass in “Captain Phillips.” The result is a kinetic docudrama that always impresses without ever connecting emotionally in quite the same way as the helmer’s prior “Bloody Sunday” and “United 93,” with which “Phillips” forms a loose trilogy of average Joes and Janes caught in the throes of politically motivated violence. Setting sail with an opening-night berth at the New York Film Festival (where another seafaring epic, “Life of Pi,” launched last year), this impeccably well-made, gripping but grim survival tale should spark a flurry of awards buzz for star Tom Hanks and powerful Somali newcomer Barkhad Abdi, but may prove too grueling to make major waves with Academy voters or the multiplex crowd.

Working from a script by Billy Ray (“Breach,” “Shattered Glass”) drawn from Phillips’ own memoir, Greengrass traces the captain’s ill-fated journey on and off the container ship Maersk Alabama, beginning with his April 2009 departure from the port of Oman and ending with his dramatic rescue off the Somali coast after four days in captivity. The only reference to Phillips’ personal life comes in a brief but excellent scene between Hanks and Catherine Keener (playing Mrs. Phillips), rich in its sense of the comfort between two long-married people, their conversation about their children’s future masking a far deeper concern about Phillips’ high-risk profession. Indeed, “Captain Phillips” makes it clear that Phillips was worried from the outset about the possibility of pirate attack — and the Alabama’s lack of security — well before leaving port, which gives the ultimate turn of events a touch of Cassandra-like prophecy.

The pirates (who also get one too-brief context-establishing scene on the Somalia mainland) first arrive in two small skiffs ill-equipped to challenge the Alabama’s speed, though it’s a clever bit of radio theater concocted by Phillips that ultimately thwarts them. But the crew knows it’s only a matter of time before their unwanted visitors return — which they do, in a sharply executed setpiece that pits the undersized skiff (just one this time, with four occupants) against the Alabama’s pressurized water jets and evasive maneuvers. It’s a scene that wouldn’t look out of place in one of Greengrass’ “Bourne” pics, suggesting how much the director’s immersive, handheld aesthetic has been sharpened by his season in the Hollywood tentpole trade.

Where Greengrass’ earlier true-life tales were principally group studies, his latest is very much a tale of two captains — Phillips on the one hand, and the pirate leader Muse (Abdi) on the other. Though he himself is but a low-ranking functionary in a vast piracy hierarchy, Muse is head honcho on the Alabama, and Abdi (a Somali-born American emigre making his film debut) plays the role with the hungry intensity of an oppressed man taking his turn at being the oppressor. In a movie that affords little dimensionality to its characters, Abdi finds notes to play you scarcely realized were there, until this reedy young man with jutting brow looms as large as Othello.

Hanks is predictably sturdy as the embattled captain (save for a come-and-go Boston accent), playing the kind of Everyman facing extraordinary circumstances he’s played many times. He never quite disappears into the role, in part because there isn’t all that much there to disappear into, and in part because Hanks has a bag of actorly tics and indications that follow him almost everywhere he goes. But he seems confident handling the tools of the nautical trade, and his scenes opposite Abdi bristle with a quiet electricity. Much of the movie’s first half is devoted to Phillips’ stealth efforts to keep the pirates away from his crew (who huddle in hiding down in the engine room), feigning mechanical failure and offering to send the marauders on their way with $300,000 in cash from an onboard safe (except, they want millions). At every step, Hanks excels at showing what’s really going on in the character’s mind while maintaining his facade of almost folksy calm. It isn’t one of the actor’s rangiest roles, but it culminates in an eruption of emotional fireworks of exactly the sort Oscar dreams are made of.

Like in life, “Captain Phillips” makes a sharp turn at almost the exact midpoint, as the pirates flee the ship in an enclosed lifeboat with Phillips as their hostage. In turn, Greengrass and cinematographer Barry Ackroyd (“United 93”) collapse the visual space of the film from the relative expansiveness of the Alabama to a crucible of claustrophobic tension. As Phillips and the pirates head towards Somalia — and their fated rendezvous with a U.S. Naval destroyer — you can almost smell the sweat and grime hanging in the air of the poorly ventilated 28-foot capsule.

No one in movies today, with the possible exceptions of Kathryn Bigelow and Ken Loach, does you-are-there realism better than Greengrass, further enhanced by the crackerjack editing of longtime collaborator Christopher Rouse (who also earns a co-producer credit here). Yet “Captain Phillips” suffers from a certain vague feeling that we’ve seen this movie before, both in Greengrass’ own filmography and, more explicitly, in the excellent recent import “A Hijacking,” which dramatized a nearly identical case of a Somali pirate attack on a Danish cargo vessel, albeit with even less of a happy ending. There, director Tobias Lindholm built up a fierce emotional tension by inserting scenes of not just the crew’s families back home, but also the mercenary tactics of the shipping company itself, weighing the value of human lives against the corporate bottom line. Here, there is something too dry and austere about Greengrass and Ray’s telescoped vision, which touches only fleetingly on the pirates’ motives, the suffering of the Somali people and the collateral damage of global capitalism

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Captain Phillips reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Fri Sep 06, 2013 11:17 am

Hollywood Reporter

Captain Phillips: Film Review

8:07 AM PDT 9/6/2013 by Todd McCarthy

The Bottom Line

Paul Greengrass excels again at recreating a perilous chapter of the post-9/11 era.

With his irrepressibly kinetic style, Greengrass could probably make the opening of a cereal box exciting, so it was almost a no-brainer that he could successfully handle a story like this, which features not only logistical challenges but the sort of volatile political backdrop he has favored in most of his previous work. Still, for a story that pits locals versus Americans in the Middle East and boasts a climax that involves Navy SEALs, U.S. choppers and warships, the taut screenplay by Billy Ray (Shattered Glass, The Hunger Games) essentially makes no mention of religion, Al-Qaeda or the war on terror, concentrating on the more essential reality of impoverished young men, some of them fishermen, pushed to extreme measures by the big bucks bandit bosses offer for Western hostages, for whom they can demand millions. It's "just business," as so many criminals throughout history have said.

And so it is for Hanks' Richard Phillips, a middle-aged civilian captain who bids his wife (Catherine Keener) adieu in Vermont in late March 2009, to take an enormous container ship from southern Oman down along the coast of Somalia and then to Kenya. Unusually for a vessel in these waters, it's an American ship, the Maersk Alabama out of Norfolk, manned by a U.S. crew. Phillips is curt with his crew members and, given the rash of pirate attacks of late, extremely attentive to security matters. He doesn't say it in so many words, but it's clear Phillips just wants to get this job done as quickly as possible, collect his check and go back home.

On the beach in the pirate city of Eyl, Somalia, voyages of a different sort are being organized by shouting, rifle-toting young African men recruiting crews to hijack large vessels out at sea and bring back money as well as hostages who might be exchanged for very large ransoms. Dozens of mostly skinny guys in their teens and twenties eagerly volunteer for action; in short order, enough to man two skiffs are selected.

The usual Greengrass skill is evident with the diverse settings and mix of languages and accents, the combination of technologies high and low, the laying out of logistics and constant movement from place to place and the outer limits of human resilience and endurance in dealing with severe threats to them. The director has long since mastered relaying exposition as economically as possible and, visually, he and ace cinematographer Barry Ackroyd make the tiny open motorboats that pursue the hulking, graceless container ship look like minnows bird-dogging a whale.

As it happens, the alert Captain Phillips notices the two boats bearing down on him just as he's conducting an attack preparation drill. As the Alabama moves very slowly and has limited maneuverability, there's not much the crew can do but slowly shift course and fire big water hoses at the marauders; rather incredibly in these waters, as a merchant vessel it carries no arms. Discouraged by increasingly rough seas, one skiff turns back, but the other perseveres, enabling four pirates to climb aboard using a ladder they hook to the ship's side.

Thus ensues a cat-and-mouse game in which the crew hides down in the engine room while Phillips, called "Irish" the bony, buck-toothed ringleader Muse (Barkhad Abdi), tries to stall for time. Whenever they sense any games are being played, the pirates go into paroxysms of ranting and raving and, soon enough, Phillips offers them the $30,000 in cash he has on hand to call it a day. But the hot-head of the group, Najee (Faysal Ahmed), knows better, insisting that they hold out for millions since all these ships are insured for just such an incident.

As Muse and the youngest pirate, Bilal (Barkhad Abdirahman) are injured and a big U.S. Navy vessel is moving in, the pirates shortly take off with their most valuable asset, Captain Phillips in an orange, ugly-looking lifeboat in which they hope to reach the Somali coast within 36 hours. As tempers fray and conditions become suffocating in this little shell of a craft, the American military goes into as full-court press, dispatching more boats as well as Navy SEALs to the scene to try to rescue Phillips.

ANALYSIS: Why Tom Hanks' 'Captain Phillips' Is Opening the New York Film Fest

Since this military operation was big news in April 2009, the outcome is no surprise. However, if the film accurately depicts how it went down, it was even more hair-breadth and last-second than was generally reported. But more powerful even than that is Hanks' stunned response to the attack and his emotional aftermath. Hysteria, delayed reaction, wordless silence—these have been seen many times in dramatized accounts of traumatic events. But Hanks has come up with something different, a rendering of a state of shock quite unique in which his altered condition stands in extreme contrast to the routine questions and reassurances of the attending nurse. It's an extraordinary scene, one for which there is little precedent.

The presentation of the four pirates, who speak in their local language as well as in some English, is both interesting and a bit predictable. These are young men -- or, in at least one case, a teenager -- who didn't know each other before being selected for the mission, and they spend a lot of time criticizing and bickering with one another. Muse establishes a measure of rapport with Phillips, frequently assuring him they don't mean to harm him no matter how frequently the wild-eyed Najee shouts and waves a gun in is face, while Bilal is mostly hobbled with his injury and skipper Elmi (Mahat M. Ali) seems petrified driving no matter what craft he's in.

The film rips right along and never relinquishes its grip. The format of the last-minute heroics goes back to the earliest Westerns and could well be accused of patness or being cliched, other than for the fact that it's what happened. Unsurprisingly, though, the director indulges in no jingoistic, rah-rah stuff with the Navy, even if it has not often been the case that American military operations in the Middle East have come off exactly as planned.

Craftsmanship and technical contributions are first-rate all the way, while Henry Jackman's electronic score throbs underneath most of the action.


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