Just one week after ‘Gravity’, we get another major Oscar contender. Paul Greengrass, the director mostly known for movies that are shaky as hell, has finally made a film that actually warrants shaky-cam. Set almost entirely on the high seas, this true story demands to be seen.
‘Captain Phillips’ tells the story of a cargo freighter captain who refused to let four Somali pirates take his ship or the lives of his men. I imagine that most folks out there already know about this story, so that’s all the plot summary you really need.
The problem with most true story adaptations is that you already know the outcome. Almost magically, Greengrass still manages to make Phillips’ story absolutely intense. I knew the main details from the nightly news reports, but I was unaware of many other parts of this hostage situation prior to seeing the film – remarkable events that really emphasize Phillips as the hero that he proved to be. His quick-acting and the threat of the pirates add great value to this cinematic story.
Also keeping the film fresh are fantastic performances. Tom Hanks brings the character to life, really placing you in the high tension moments with him. One scene in particular, which I’ll refrain from spoiling because it’s unexpected and emotionally explosive, honestly conveys the feelings flowing through him. Be prepared to laugh when he laughs, fear when he’s afraid, and cry when he weeps. Just watching ‘Captain Phillips’ is an emotionally draining experience.
Aside from Hanks playing the titular role, the majority of the supporting cast consists of unrecognized faces, yet all of the performances are stellar. There are very few villains that I’ve hated as much as the leader of the band of pirates. First-time actor Barkhad Abdi knocks it out of the park. He’s so good that you not only loathe him, but at times even sympathize with him. Abdi somehow makes you want to root for him. The last thing that I expected from ‘Captain Phillips’ was to feel bad for the bad guy.
Last week, I and many other critics out there praised ‘Gravity’ for its intensity and filmmaking merits. I didn’t expect to be doing this so soon, but I have to bestow the same praises for ‘Captain Phillips’. It’s very rare that a film comes along with this much tension, emotion and realism. Oscar, save a spot for the Captain in the Best Picture category, be prepared for Hanks to give every other contender a run for his money, and let’s get Greengrass in the Best Director category again.