Thursday, October 10, 2013

Captain Phillips - 3 stars

Tom Hanks plays Captain Richard Phillips, captain of the cargo ship Maersk Alabama which was hijacked by Somali pirates in 2009. 

The movie opens with Rich Phillips leaving his house and being driven to the airport by his wife (Catherine Keener).  On the way, they talk about mundane things like their kids and the future.  Once he arrives at the ship, we get to see a bit of what a day in the life of a sea captain is like.  He checks out the ship, checks his email for information about weather and pirate activity, and he meets with his crew to discuss schedules. 

I enjoyed this part of the movie.  It felt authentic, and it was interesting to see what life was like on a ship like that.  It's also impressive that they filmed on an actual cargo ship, and you really get a sense of how big these things are, and how much cargo they carry.

Before long, the pirates arrive.  This was also exciting.  The ship has no weapons but they use fire hoses to try and keep small boats from boarding them.  Captain Phillips also tries a couple things to trick the pirates into leaving them alone, and it seems to work at first. 

Soon enough the pirates board the ship.  I won't reveal what happens, but sooner than I expected the pirates are leaving the ship on a lifeboat with Captain Phillips as their prisoner.  What follows is an hour or so of screen time devoted to the 5 of them in the lifeboat, while the Navy tries to negotiate with them.

I hate to admit it but the movie got kind of boring for a while.  I like that they stuck with the facts and didn't try to invent action sequences that didn't happen, but at the same time I got a little tired of one scene after another of Phillips trying to talk the pirates into letting him go, or the Navy negotiator saying the same stuff over and over.  I think this section of the movie could have been shortened.  The movie is about 2 hours 15 minutes, and there isn't enough story to sustain it for that long a running time.  I would have liked it better if it was 20 - 30 minutes shorter.

I still enjoyed the movie overall.  It was intense in many places, and even though you know how the story ends, you don't know how it gets there.  At least I didn't.  I knew Phillips would be rescued but I didn't pay enough attention to the news story in 2009 to know how the situation was resolved. 

The best scene in the movie is after he has been rescued and brought to the medical bay on the ship.  He's in shock and the Navy's medical personnel are trying to treat him.  When he actually breaks down a bit, it's surprising how emotionally affecting it is.  I found out after that the people in the scene with him were not actors.  They were the actual people working on the Navy ship the film crew was filming on.  It was a last minute decision to have them in the movie, and the director just told them to do what they would normally do for someone in his state.  I thought that was pretty interesting, and the movie definitely ends on a powerful note.

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