Thursday, January 30, 2014

Movie Review: “Captain Phillips”

   I am an ardent fan of the cinematic arts. Although I have certain genre preferences, I don’t let that stifle my curiosity and close myself to different flavors of entertainment. That said...I am a huge fan of science fiction, super hero and action movies! Please visit my other blog The Boxed Office for reviews, exclusively, on these types of movies.

The Cast

   There shouldn’t be much I have to say about Tom Hanks. Either you like his work or you don’t, as I find him to be pretty consistent. Here he portrays real life Captain Richard Phillips in the retelling of the hijacking of the container ship Maersk Alabama. Hanks is convincing in his role, as expected, and really delivers later in the film in  ascend that separates the good actors from the great ones.

   Barkhad Abdi plays Muse, the leader of the pirates. He gives us a brief glimpse into the life of a Somali pirate, or more accurately, a Somali with little hope for a future and thus, resorting to a life that further diminishes that hope. He is very believable in the role, having fled Somalia in real life and thus able to channel real life feelings into the role.

   Faysal Ahmed plays Najee, another one of the pirates in the crew of Muse, but from another village. Picked for his size, Najee becomes an antagonist to the antagonist in the film. He was very real and convincing, again, being able to channel real life experiences, but he goes a step further and is able to induce real fear as the nature of his character is unstable and unpredictable…yet intelligent and focused.

The Plot: 
   Captain Richard Phillips has accepted responsibility for transporting cargo for the container ship Maesrk Alabama, on a route that is particularly prone to pirate attacks. Wanting to get the job done, he embarks on his mission, with a bit of trepidation. 

   Muse is a Somali with little options for making money, so has turned to piracy as a way of life. Answerable to others with more men and bigger guns, he assembles a crew to search for plausible targets to hijack. Among his four man crew is Najee, a man from another village that has come looking for work and the opportunity to make money, through piracy. 

   When Muse targets the Maersk Alabama because of it’s lone position and close proximity, he refuses to be deterred from his goal. Captain Phillips recognizes the threat, but all his efforts cannot stop the inevitable, and all his fears are realized when the Maersk Alabama is finally boarded.

   What follows is a riveting account of both crews trying to survive, one trying to survive the pirates, and the other…the pirates, trying to survive the only way they know how. Eventually, it comes down to Captain Philips, alone doing all he can to get back to his family as the situation deteriorates and only gets worse as the US Navy becomes involved…and they only have one way to resolve the situation.

The Verdict: 
   Although I found this film to be entertaining, I did feel that there was some inevitability to it. I say that to express that for me, I felt as there were no surprises in it. I knew the pirates were going to get on board. I knew they were going to have Phillips in a situation that he couldn’t overcome alone. I knew it wasn’t going to end well for them.

   Knowing all that, I was really surprised by the acting of Faysal Ahmed in particular as he was the one that always stole whatever scene he was in because you never knew when his loose cannon character was going to finally explode. His look of madness and utter contempt for his hostage is what gave you the sense that something bad could happen at anytime…and that he might be the catalyst for breaking the predictability feeling of the film.

   Tom Hanks is always an excellent actor to watch, but it isn’t until the last five minutes of the film do you see why he is thought of as great, instead of just good. Kudos to Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Danielle Albert for making the final scene the most memorable of the film…delivering three and a half cinnamon sticks, out of five, in my cup of tea.


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