REVIEW: Captain Phillips


600full-captain-phillips-posterIn recent years, we have witnessed the release of multiple biography-dramas. While they are re-telling certain events in the magical world of cinema, there are not many out there which clench the emotional drama or intensity during its time setting, especially if it is from the perspective of an individual character. Paul Greengrass already blew our minds with his unbelievably realistic, stomach-turning 9/11 drama-thriller United 93, and seven years later, he has achieved that once more with Captain Phillips. It revisits Captain Richard Phillips’ experience of the Maersk Alabama hijacking in 2009. Greengrass has been known for his auteurist style for depicting real-life dramatized events with his unique camera style and approach to Captain Phillips ultimately paid off. Here we have another masterpiece from Greengrass that will leave you off the edge of your seat and is a strong Best Picture contender.

Paul Greengrass has always been a director of documentary-like technicality. His most notable attribute as an auteur has been his effective use of shaky camera. This is sometimes a huge gamble as its continuously wobbly movement could confuse the audience as to what is happening in a scene. Greengrass is the master of this technique because it is perhaps as close as a film can get to grasp a sense of reality, in a similar style to documentary. With all of the thrills, action and suspense that Captain Phillips possesses, the implication of Greengrass’ wobbly filming style worked beautifully. If anything, it got the audience even more involved as a realistic drama but it still worked tremendously as an escapist film.

Another substantial quality in Captain Phillips is the nail-biting suspense. Admittedly, the film begins like it is an ordinary day but the appearance of the Somali pirates and the hijacking picks up the pace. From this point, the suspense gets higher, the surroundings get more claustrophobic and the audience’s uncomfortable predicament gets tighter. Greengrass progressively tightens and zooms on the suspense through his technical style and narrative flow which we, the spectators, are almost reaching out of our seats and begin to find it more difficult to endure. Nevertheless, the amount of stomach-turning tension that Captain Phillips bestowed perhaps could not have got any higher than Greengrass’ shaky-camera techniques and of course, Tom Hanks in the leading role.

Particularly in his most famous roles, Tom Hanks has delivered performances as characters either in search of a unique adventure or are forced into one. His appearance in Captain Phillips is in some ways a typecast because it is once again, a film that features Hanks practically on his own in which the plot’s central focus is on the circumstances of his on-screen character, similar to Cast Away. In Captain Phillips, especially in the film’s second act, the audience are there with Phillips every step of the way and Hanks’ portrayal of a terrified yet brave and noble man really shines. It is perhaps his greatest performance in a long time and he is undoubtedly a contender for Best Leading Actor. While Hanks’ is leading the cast like he almost always does, a stand-out performance in Captain Phillips is newcomer Barkhad Abdi as pirate leader Muse. In his first ever acting role, Abdi reaches up to the hype and formed a superb chemistry with Hanks. Muse is a complex character as he, like Phillips, wants to do what is right for his country, current situation but does it in a wrong but rather desperate way which demoralizes his objective and perhaps the poor Somalia people. Nevertheless, Abdi’s first on-screen appearance is an inspiration to amateur actors and he deserves an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

Captain Phillips is a gifted thriller which possesses the ability to maintain exhilarating suspense and emotional exhaustion upon the audience. The fact it was based on a true story, one that occurred only in 2009, depicts further historical involvement and Greengrass’ technical documentary-like style practically seals that. At the same time, it is rather unpredictable for a bio-pic as narrative events, characters and camera shots are thrown around everywhere examining and tightening the circumstances. Nevertheless, Captain Phillips gives Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty a run for its money and it could become Greengrass’ greatest opportunity yet at Oscar glory as well as for Tom Hanks to claim his third Academy Award win.


~ by SJMJ91 on 03/11/2013.

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