Ricky's Film Reviews

Bringing you honest reviews of recent releases

Captain Phillips


The true story of Captain Richard Phillips, whose cargo ship – the MV Maersk Alabama – was the first American cargo ship to be hijacked in two hundred years. The movie follows Captain Phillips as he deals with a life-threatening situation created by the Somalian pirates who have hijacked his ship, as well as himself.

When I first saw the trailer for this movie and saw the online & television publicity, I was already won over. Its daunting situation and slick filmography looked rather good – also the fact its based on a true story got me thinking “nice! This is going to be rip-roaring”

..it was alright.

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Tom Hanks was a great choice for the role. Now I would say he played the Captain superbly, but there honestly wasn’t much to it; tall posture, continuous worried look on his face, shouting back at the pirates when they became threatening, yet keeping his guard up. Yes, he was good – but he wasn’t exactly at the peak of his acting career. You know Hanks – gruff voice, manages to sound harsh yet moderately entertaining at the same time. Saying that, there was one scene where he outdid himself – and this was within the final few minutes!..

Barkhad Abdi and Barkhad Abdirahman (what’s going on there then?) were simply: Excellent. The whole gang of pirates who hijacked the ship were nothing short of brilliant, but these two gave us some real, genuine threat. The feeling they created throughout was sheer dread – threatening enough to jump onto someone’s ship is one thing, menacing enough to install a sheer streak of nastiness into the audience is quite another. I found it brilliant that these Somalian actors outshone Tom Hanks rather a lot. Sorry Hanks – yes you’re harsh and gruff, but you got nothin’ on these dudes.

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Director Rocked The Boat

This movie couldn’t have been filmed any better. The speedy boat chases, onboard action and hostage crisis all felt incredibly lifelike; almost as if I was watching found video footage filmed by a crew member. A person being taken hostage on the seas is even more bloody terrifying than a person being taken hostage on land, and  the director captured this splendidly; ensuring the threatening tension escalated at the same time as the claustrophobia closed in.. 

We have a nice mix of onboard action as well as ‘on-sea’ action. The movie slightly dragswhen the Captain is kidnapped by the pirates and jettisoned onto the sea in a lifeboat – the second the lifeboat hits the waves, we spend the subsequent twenty or so minutes watching our main man sit on the floor: 

He reaches up – PIRATE AIMS GUN AT HIM – He pulls away.

He reaches across to grab the t-shirt laying on the floor – PIRATE AIMS GUN AT HIM AGAIN. He pulls away.

He tries to stand up – PIRATE AIMS GUN AT HIM – He sits down.

That kind of thing.

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Apart from this “oh for fuck sake, is something exciting going to happen?” chapter, the pirates continue to keep the façade flowing effortlessly, marching around the screen being as bullying as possible.  Weather patterns and the blending of night into dawn are painted onto the canvas superbly, and with some lovely colours. Random of me to point out, but that whole ‘just waking up’ light blue atmosphere is quite cozy – especially being on the open sea.

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Near the beginning of the movie there is a scene where the onboard crew are hiding from the pirates. One (remember that – one) pirate ventures down into the engine room where they are hid behind the stairs.. now you’d think a gang of at least 6-7 Americans would be able to pitch together and take the bastard by force. You know – one reaches through the stairs and trips him, whilst the remaining 6 barrel at him. Instead, they remain hidden until the last possible second, and then a half-arsed “let’s get him” feat unravels..

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Knocked Out And Bowled Over

The part of the movie that impressed me the most (or rather, that only impressed me) was the very final scene where Captain Phillips is fished from the lifeboat and taken to safety. His portrayal of a broken, shaken up grown man was just fantastic. As he sits on the bed and a female nurse examines him, I was reminded of situations I have been in myself

(one of which being a night out in Soho a few years ago.. 4am – I’m head-butted and knocked out whilst walking down a street in central London. My iPhone is also stolen. Livid. Few hours later, I blur back into consciousness on a bed in Chelsea & Westminster hospital A&E department. Tears streaming down my confused and blood-spattered face, I feel the most violated and vulnerable I ever have in my life)

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A-hem. But yes, I thought of that night when I watched Tom being patched up. Again, his portrayal was just brilliant and beautifully acted. Possibly his finest acting of the entire movie. I was completely bowled over by him. I didn’t even see that much emotion in Castaway. (and let’s face it, losing his friend Wilson was terribly sad).

I think I’m at the end of the review – I mean, if this was a movie not set on the ocean I’d probably have car chases, architecture, characters, extras, and other land-things to comment on. But I’m rather restricted, as we’re talking about sea and a few people here.

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I will wrap this up by saying Captain Phillips is good, but not as groundbreaking as you might think. This is possibly because it is a true event. There is only so much a director can slap on top of something which actually happened, therefore restricting the script / production.

The movie drowns (pun fully intended) in a sense of dread, and maintains its fear factor brilliantly – all credit for this goes to the Somalian actors. Other than this, you’re looking at spending 134 minutes watching a man sitting in a lifeboat, trying to get out of its door.

My advice: Wait until its out for rental.

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This entry was posted on October 20, 2013 by .
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