Captain Phillips: Not your typical good-versus-evil film

Captain Phillips: Not your typical good-versus-evil film

James Bickford

Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures

captainphillips_courtesyofcolumbiapictures

Hollywood needs to slow down. With so many movies to rave about recently, it seems to rob critics of their credibility – there are simply no bad reviews to give. Nevertheless, this is good news for moviegoers everywhere, and the good news only continues with Captain Phillips, the true story of the American cargo ship that was hijacked by Somalia pirates in 2009.

By now, we should all know that Tom Hanks is guaranteed to give an excellent performance, so I feel no need to gush over him. He captures the essence of Captain Phillips and is singlehandedly responsible for making the film an instant classic (you know, the usual).

Apart from Hanks, the entire cast of Captain Phillips is spot on. The film boasts no weak performances and a wonderful variety of characters. Even the background extras feel like unique individuals and not an arbitrarily selected crowd. Each actor has a purpose – a rare quality that makes Captain Phillips so special.

Even rarer is that all the actors (Navy SEALs aside) look like normal people. Not “Hollywood normal” where everyone is idealized and beautiful, but actual human normal. This helps the audience relate to the struggles of genuine lives.

The film pulls no punches, visually. It is a brutal film, with some uncomfortable scenes that are violet yet real. They are hard to watch in the best way possible.

Captain Phillips is not a simple good versus evil story. Although Phillips is portrayed as so typically heroic that it’s almost comedic, the “villains” play an unexpected role in securing sympathy. They are not mindless psychopaths, but rather human beings who are put in unfortunate situations where they are forced to do evil in order to survive. The performance of these villains steals the show. They bring tension, conflict, and a sense of fear. Their leader, Muse (Barkhad Abdi), is a standout – but all deserve credit.

Director Paul Greengrass makes the most of only two or three major sets in the film – particularly in the second half, which takes places in a lifeboat. Seeing that single set for a bulk of the film should have been monotonous, but it was incredibly exciting. The scene created a sense of claustrophobia and really ratcheted up the tension. The scenes in the lifeboat do go on a bit too long, though, and the movie consequentially drags a bit.

One criticism I have of Captain Phillips is that as the movie is drawn out to increase tension, the scenes and dialogue become repetitive.

All-in-all, Captain Phillips is a marvelous movie. Although anyone who paid attention to the news a few years ago knows how it ends, I found myself hoping that somehow the events could change. The film is, in short, a must-see.