Captain Phillips

Rated PG-13 134 min. 2013

For proof that we’re about to rush headlong into awards season, look no further than Paul Greengrass’ Captain Phillips, our first true work of unabashed Oscar bait. Captain Phillips is an occasionally solid enough thriller based on the true events of a sea captain being taken for ransom by Somali pirates. Unfortunately, the film’s too often a mixed bag, saddled with certain wonky pretensions that are at odds with its inherently shallow nature, which often detracts from its occasional noteworthy strength — suspense. Obviously, a lot of the blame should be placed on Greengrass, and not just because of his usual shaky-cam style. He has an extremely simple story that he attempts to imbue with depth, but can’t quite understand how to — and it’s all stretched too thin with a runtime that goes on at least 20 minutes too long. The film opens with some hamfisted foreshadowing, as our titular captain (Tom Hanks) and his wife (Catherine Keener) discuss how the times, they are a-changin’. Not long after, we get to the film’s first unintentionally funny moment, as Phillips, who’s about to captain a cargo ship down the east coast of Africa, is mapping his route, and the camera slowly zooms in on the words “SOMALI BASIN” on the map as ominous music swells in the background. Once Phillips’ ship is besieged by a small group of Somali pirates, we get to the actual thriller aspects of the film, which take an inordinate amount of time to kick in, the film is on stronger footing. Greengrass, however, can’t decide if he’s making a popcorn flick or an important work of cinema and ends up with neither. The character of Captain Phillips is a shallow creation for whom our sympathy exists solely because he has a family (which we hear about onscreen for all of three minutes) and that he’s played by Hanks, whom we’re conditioned as moviegoers to love. While I can occasionally enjoy Hanks, this is a film that plays to his worst tendencies — acting as an obvious, shameless awards showcase. This may work better for most people (one woman sitting in front of me was openly weeping), but the entire film’s intentions are far too transparent for my tastes.

Film Credits

Official Site:

Director: Paul Greengrass

Writer: Billy Ray

Producer: Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti and Michael De Luca

Cast: Tom Hanks, Catherine Keener, Max Martini, Chris Mulkey, John Magaro, Maria Dizzia, Michael Chernus, David Warshofsky, Rey Hernandez and Yul Vazquez

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