By: Oberst Von Berauscht (Two Beers) –
Richard Phillips is the Captain of the Maersk Alabama, a cargo ship which transports freight around the Indian Ocean. On an ordinary run to Mombasa, the ship is attacked and subsequently boarded by Somali Pirates, who take the Captain and command crew hostage. The rest of the crew hide in the engine room, as Captain Phillips works to appease his captors while keeping his people hidden. Eventually the situation onboard escalates and the Somalis kidnap Phillips, taking the lifeboat as a means of escape.
Director Paul Greengrass delivers his most emotionally powerful film since Bloody Sunday. The movie begins very quietly, following Captain Phillips and crew as they resume work after time off. From here, the tension begins to build, as rumblings and worry gradually turns to panic and real-world fear. When the pirates finally make their appearance in their small motorboats, it is almost unbelievable that such a small vessel can pose a real threat to an American ship. Of course, history has proven time and time again that a few determined individuals with firearms can do a lot of damage.
Tom Hanks gives a fascinating performance, as his character is put through the wringer. Phillips displays a host of emotions, chiefly fear, and comes gradually unglued. Somali/American actor Barkhad Abdi is a wonderful discovery, as his sensitive performance manages to convey the two sides of these pirates. On one hand violent and brutal, but also forced into this state by a country whose economy allows for no other ways to elevate oneself. The real tragedy of these hijackings is the way the criminals involved are in many ways sad victims of circumstance.
Greengrass has often been accused (and rightly so) of pioneering the recent trend of filming nearly every scene in extreme close-up, and with shaky hand-held cameras. Granted, Greengrass’s own works have more or less worked with this style. But the trend it created is inarguably nauseating. Thankfully, Greengrass eases up on the Shaky Cam technique a bit in this film, still using it occasionally, but mostly in a way that enhances the drama of the moment.
All shaky-cam criticism aside, Captain Phillips manages to be as gripping as Zero Dark Thirty, with one of Tom Hanks’s career-best performances, and a solid Somali cast who lend authenticity to the proceedings, highly recommended.
Take a Drink: whenever Tom Hanks takes full advantage of the wonderfully nuanced New England accent. (I wonder how much his dialogue coach got paid… and then realize it is probably more money than I see in a year… damn I’m depressed…)
Take a Drink: each time someone gets punched
Take a Drink: anytime the name of the ship “Maersk Alabama” is used
Drink a Shot: at the horrifyingly bloody finish (I’d say *Spoilers*, but if you didn’t hear about this in the news back in 2009, you probably wouldn’t have internet access in the first place, as you’re too busy being stuck under a rock and slowly starving to death.