Tom Hanks. Action/ Bio/Drama. Written by Billy Ray. Directed by Paul Greengrass.
FILM SYNOPSIS: This intense thriller concerns the true story of Captain Richard Phillips and the 2009 hijacking by Somali pirates of the US-flagged MV Maersk Alabama, the first American cargo ship to be hijacked in two hundred years.
PREVIEW REVIEW: Itís that time of the year when movie moguls feel comfortable with releasing their award-worthy entrees, confident that industry members will remember these films come Oscar nominations time in three months. From last weekís Gravity on, weíll see real moviemaking - the art of moviemaking, if you will. And to be sure, Captain Phillips will undoubtedly please award voters as much as it did last nightís preview audience.
Directed by Paul Greengrass, who never met a tripod he liked, nearly the entire production is filmed with a hand-held, jiggling camera. Thereís enough tension in the film, without this obvious use of camera trickery. The effect has become standard practice by filmmakers who either made or just viewed way too many music videos. But this is my one and only complaint with the production values. That said, my complaint is mere nitpicking, as this is an action/thriller with depth and value.
Captain Phillips, at its core, has an essential ingredient, much like Gravity: the instinct of survival. Tom Hanks, like Sandra Bullock in Gravity, gives an Oscar-worthy performance as a person using his wits to outwit that which tries to kill him. Perhaps Iím reading more into the production than the filmmakers intended, but as with Gravity, as well as Bob Redfordís recent All is Lost, the filmís reflective moments concerning the preciousness of life cannot be denied.
When you view a character who fights to stay alive until he simply can fight no more, that struggle confirms the sanctity of life. Itís a factor we cinema seat sitters can relate to. It isnít just a fear of the grave that causes us to cling to this veil of tears. Thereís a subconscious pull within us all toward this present period of existence. We donít want to die either. And weíd like to believe we possess the same fortitude and smarts the main characters in the aforementioned films reveal.
There are a couple of profane uses of Godís name, which by now my readers know I am always bothered by, but I found it interesting that there was no objectionable language from the lead character, a professional man who used his words wisely, both to crew and captors. I maintain that a man who uses language rather than abusing it can be seen as a wise man. This film exemplifies that belief.
Captain Phillips is also a salute to the skill of the Navy Seals and the U.S. military in general. Want intense action? This film has it, you should excuse the expression, by the boatload.
I have yet to investigate the reason the skipper and crew of the besieged freighter had no weapons other than fire hoses, but I kept thinking about that during the movie. Theyíre in international waters and there is always the threat of piracy on the route they have taken. Everyone in the world has guns except these guys!
The ordeal would have been avoided easily had the shipís owners employed two professional guns-for-hire. Again, perhaps itís not the intent of the filmmaker, but the story furthers the argument that if gun possession becomes outlawed, then only the outlaws will have them.
I donít mean to be political with that last paragraph. I realize there are two solid sides to that debate, but youíll have to forgive me. You see, I saw Shane when I was a kid, and the following line from that filmís protagonist has always stuck with me throughout the years: ďA gun is a tool, Marion, no better or no worse than any other tool, an axe, a shovel or anything. A gun is as good or as bad as the man using it.Ē Alan Ladd as Shane (another perfect movie).