film review: Captain Phillips (2013)

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film review: Captain Phillips (2013)

Tom Hanks teams up with Paul Greengrass, of United 93 and the Bourne films, to bring us Captain Phillips, the true story of a 2009 hijacking of US cargo ship off the coast of Somali.

Some people don’t like Tom Hanks. I don’t understand that. I mean, what’s not to like? He’s Hollywood’s quintessential everyman, and he’s great at it. And he’s a fun guy as well, I mean, he likes hurling, he’s nice to fans. Seriously, what’s not to like?

Luckily for Captain Phillips, your enjoyment of the film is not predicated on your fondness for Tom Hanks. This is a proper tense thriller, one that’ll have you holding your breath waiting for what happens next… If you’re the kind of person who gets that into a film of course.

Because of the nature of the film, I was a bit worried about how I’d take to it. As somehow seems to happen often, this isn’t the first cargo ship hijacking film this year – Danish drama, A Hijacking, was released here in May and it too was a cracker so I had my doubts as to whether I’d be seeing anything different from Hollywood.

Those doubts were erased after the first 30 mins. While the premise is similar, they’re actually very different stories. I wouldn’t say one is superior to the other but they’re certainly different enough that you wouldn’t confuse them. And not just because they all speak Danish in one of them.

It’s hard to put a finger exactly on what stands out about Captain Phillips in terms of it being a good thriller… but best way to put it, I think, is that they don’t do anything wrong.

That might sound like damning with faint praise, but the truth is it’s a rarity in the business of thrillers these days. Mostly likely it’s because this is based on a true story, but far too many thrillers fall into the trap of thinking that the way to build tension is to keep the audience confused. Throw in a few red herrings, stick in a twist at the end and have a few screaming matches along the and Bob’s your uncle, you’ve got a thriller.

Paul Greengrass has shown us that the simple arts of cinematography, music and old fashioned storytelling can bring all the excitement you need to keep the audience enthralled, waiting for what’s coming next…

Well that and Tom Hanks. In every film* you see him in, he’s you… Captain Phillips isn’t an idiot, but he’s also not a hero. He does everything he’s supposed to and when it hits the fan, he’s as scared as you would be. You tell me, who better than Tom Hanks for a role like that? I do think he could be up for an Oscar for this one. I’d need to see more of the contenders to think about his chances but at the moment, he’s definitely on the list for me.

Highly recommended.


* well, almost every film… Cloud Atlas (review), not so much

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