Dir. Paul Greengrass
If nothing else, Tom Hanks is getting an Oscar nom. “Captain Phillips,” a movie about Somali pirates who hijack a US cargo ship, premiered this past weekend. It’s a good story with a good cast (well, basically just Tom Hanks), but still, there’s one thing that went wrong: timing.
The movie starts out a little slow, but hey, they’re setting up the story; it’s necessary. As soon as we board the ship, the plot kicks into high gear. The pirates come aboard, the crew must defend their ship—s**t's gonna go down! And it does. With Paul Greengrass, director of the Bourne Trilogy, behind the camera, these hijacking sequences are everything they could be: exciting, surprising and most of all suspenseful. The crew rises up to fight off the Somalis, but just when they seem in the clear, they're not. The pirates leave the ship along with Captain Phillips. Then Phillips is in the lifeboat with the pirates, then Phillips is still in the lifeboat with the pirates and then later—you wouldn’t guess it—but he’s still in the lifeboat with the pirates. There’s some great character building during this time, and everything's getting set up for the big ending with the Navy, but just like a reader doesn’t need to read the same clause three times, the moviegoers don’t need to watch the same scene for 30 minutes.
But, like a moderately good class presentation, the boring stuff is in the middle and the end is a gut-puncher. It’s been a while since Hanks cried out for Wilson or compared life to a box of chocolates, but there’s a reason that the general population will get the references I just made. It’s because he was spectacular in those performances. In the last 10 minutes of “Captain Phillips,” he shows that side of himself again.
Hanks deserves serious credit, but so do his Somali attackers. It’s critically important to come to know each of the four men in order to have the full emotional response to those intimate scenes in the lifeboat, especially since those intimate scenes keep going like the Energizer Bunny. However, these first-time actors delivered. With a talented cast at the helm, the film's superfluous half hour doesn’t stop it from being great.
Laden with moments that poignantly examine a person’s reaction to the unimaginable, “Captain Phillips” takes you aboard for a little too long, but lets you off with the certainty that you just saw a significant piece of cinematic history.