Tuesday, October 15, 2013
A Different Kind of Cast Away: Captain Phillips
Captain Phillips' based-on-reality plot is something that Hollywood would have loved to dream up: the fact that it's real only adds to the scariness of its situation. Hanks is the titular character, the captain of the American container ship MV Maersk Alabama. His small crew respects him due to his diligence and no-nonsense attitude about the dangers and possibilities of what can go wrong at sea (especially near the Horn of Africa). He's the type of Captain that you'd want on your ship--stern and trustworthy. Not long after the ship enters Somali pirate territory, a nerve-wracking blip begins to ping on the ship's radar. The two little boats with their choking outboard motors seem like no match for the massive ship and its powerful fire hoses, but a lack of sufficient weaponry and a small crew allow a group of four armed pirates to jump aboard.
Led by a man named Muse, the group makes demands that set off a chain reaction of intense events. Muse is portrayed by Barkhad Abdi, and he's the Somali man that the film focuses most on. But he's not a true villain: he seemingly has some compassion and doesn't seem interested in murdering any of the crew. He just wants the treasure of the cargo to make his bosses happy back home. When the situation escalates into a long sequence involving a lifeboat and the ever-present involvement of the United States Navy, Muse seems to realize that he's a man without choices: he's torn between realizing his errors and having no other options. Abdi--an acting newcomer--does a solid job of internalizing the character's struggles.
Captain Phillips is an above-average time at your local cinema. But it sometimes feels more like a procedural than a full on exciting ride. There's nothing too surprising about the film; what you expect to happen...happens. Maybe it had too much to do with my thoughts on other films: the similar but superior United 93, the recent technical brilliance of Gravity, the recent beauty of Prisoners, the recent violent style of You're Next. But Captain Phillips, despite Tom Hanks' great performance and plenty of entertainment, treads water a little bit too much and fails to reach true greatness. (B)