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Movie Breakdown: Captain Phillips (Noah)

October 11, 2013


People are doing traditional-style reviews all over the web, so we decided to try something different.  In each “breakdown” we’ll take a look at what a film’s marketing lead us to believe, how the movie actually played, and then what we learned from it all.  Read on!

The Impression:

Haven’t seen a Paul Greengrass flick I haven’t loved, so his newest, another real-life actioneer following in the footsteps of United 93, is a must see. Dangle America’s Male Sweetheart Tom Hanks over the whole boiling pot and you’ve got a surefire winner.

The Reality:

It feels like after the rollicking, yet ultimately depressing action of the Bourne films and then the heroic, but ultimately depressing, patriotism of United 93 that Mr. Greengrass might be growin’ himself a little bone of hope. Though Captain Phillips certainly paints a grim picture of the life of a Somali fisherman/pirate, Greengrass isn’t content to just square off the jowly but determined Captain Phillips (Tom Hanks) against a cavalcade of faceless goons. No, no, the Somali pirates in Captain Phillips are rounded humans, barely villains by the end of the piece, pushed to the edge by crushed dreams and a complete lack of possibility. It would be just as easy to make Hank’s Captain Phillips a one-note good guy, another American “super-hero” standing up against the forces of the invading enemy, but Greengrass and Hanks won’t let that happen. In their capable hands, Captain Phillips becomes a man bound by duty, but pushed to action by fear, of losing his family, his crew, and in the darkest moments (of which there are many) his very life. Hanks, propped up against a spot-on Maine accent, is revelatory here, any doubts invented by even the slightest screening of Larry Crowne assuaged. With characters this good, Greengrass barely has to try, but try he does, and what comes tumbling out with razor-sharp focus is one the of the tensest films of the year. If you want suspense, ratcheted to the point of nausea, Greengrass is your guy. Tuck him and his crew in to the tiniest places possible, add guns, off-balance villains and one very vulnerable good guy, and you have a film that aches with tension. In the best possible way.

The Lesson:

Fuck, now I have to wait for another five years.

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