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Captain Phillips [Celluloid Hero]

 

Captain Phillips  (2013)

In 2009, Captain Richard Phillips was supposed to take a cargo ship from Oman to Mombasa, around the Horn of Africa. The route took them through dangerous waters, and resulted in four Somali pirates accomplishing the first successful pirate seizure of a ship registered under the American flag since the early 19th century. The ordeal ended with a (spoiler alert (but really, it’s a TRUE STORY that happened five years ago, you should already know what happened)) successful Navy SEAL strike that saved the Captain and his crew.

There are some movies that just nail it from every aspect. Even though I knew the story, and knew how it ended, I was still tense throughout. There were a lot of smaller details that I must have missed or just not remembered from the original story, so despite knowing the outcome, I was still unsure as to how we would get there. The cinematography was outstanding, ranging from huge helicopter shots of the ship surrounded by water that seemed to go on forever, contrasted with shots of the crew tucked away in small cramped quarters. Even something as seemingly simple as the sound editing was impressive, from the constant noise of the ocean waves to the sounds of the engine room to the dialogue going from shouting to whispering.

One of the things that struck me was the scale and size of everything. When the story was happening in the news, my mind always pictured a smaller boat, not a huge cargo liner. I never realized that these four skinny Somalis took a small boat with an outboard motor and successfully boarded a gigantic liner. I was also reminded just how insanely huge the ocean is, when they would mention it was going to take thirty-six hours for the lifeboat to reach the coast of Somalia. At times you forget how relatively slowly these boats move; when you’re trying to push tens of thousands of tons, it takes a long time for momentum to build. There were a few crazy countdown moments where you were just dying in anticipation, waiting for the cavalry to arrive, then realizing “oh right, the Navy is still a hundred nautical miles away, how much more time is it going to take?”

Tom Hanks was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actor, and Barkhad Abdi was nominated for both a Golden Globe and an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, but failed to win either. Hanks is always good, but I think he faltered a bit in this role with his accent. The real Captain Phillips is from Massachusetts, and Hanks just couldn’t quite get the accent right and at times it became distracting. Abdi was fascinating to watch, because quite honestly I didn’t see him as an actor, I was pretty certain that he was really a Somali pirate. It obviously helped to cast unknowns as the four pirates, and Abdi proved he could be the lead by showing the range from anger to a sort of bond and respect for Phillips.

After the first five minutes, I would have told you I would hate this movie (it begins with an inconsequential scene as Phillips drives to the airport with his wife). After the last forty minutes, I absolutely loved it. Even knowing that the Navy SEALs save the day, I was still on the edge of my seat waiting to see how it would all unfold. When it did, I actually let out a yell in the middle of my living room.

 

 

On the [Celluloid Hero] scale, “Captain Phillips” gets a 9 out of 10.

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