Welcome to McKoo’s Movie Club! For more info on how it works, click here. The movie that we are discussing this week is Captain Phillips. Needless to say, there are spoilers ahead, so please return after you’ve watched it if you haven’t yet.
“Look at me. I am the captain now.”
Having just watched this for the first time recently, this movie was far more powerful, emotional, and suspenseful than I was expecting. However, once I realized that the director was Paul Greengrass (who had previously done some of the Bourne films and is scheduled to return for the fifth one this summer), I wasn’t as surprised. He takes a lot of the high-stakes style storytelling from those action movies, and transplants them into this life-or-death drama. This movie was one of the biggest emotional rollercoasters that a film has sent me on in quite some time. Prior to watching this, I actually knew that Captain Phillips was going to survive, being somewhat familiar with the true story that this film was based on, yet I still was on the edge of my seat with anticipation of what would happen next.
One of the many reasons that this film works so well is the superb acting. Tom Hanks gives yet another stellar “I’m in an impossible situation, but I’m going to pull through” performance that I would say is on par with his role in Apollo 13. If this movie can’t convince you that Tom Hanks is one of the best living actors, I don’t know what will. One of my favorite things about this performance is how he made the character feel real – at first, he almost seemed a little stuffy and unlikable (kind of like an annoying boss who seems to think that one should have absolutely zero fun while on the clock, even if you’re still being productive). Yet as the movie progressed, we got to see that he is courageous and genuinely cares about the safety of his crew. This seemed like a true-to-life reminder that just because someone rubs you the wrong way initially, it doesn’t mean that they are devoid of good qualities.
Barkhad Abdi, who plays the main pirate Muse, also delivered a spectacular performance. It comes as no surprise to me that he was nominated for an Oscar for this role. Rather than just being a two-dimensional villain for the sake of villainy, I really felt this character’s unyielding determination to prove himself. Had this been a superhero or crime film, I felt that he would have been a similarly well-developed character that you would typically go on to see becoming a terrifying crime boss, like Fisk from Netflix’s Daredevil.
I also enjoy the performance from Barkhad Abdirahman, who plays the young pirate Bilal. Largely because of his portrayal, I was actually quite sad that his character died. It was obvious that while he made a poor choice and had to be accountable for his actions, he was also a product of his circumstances. It made you wish he had a better chance at life. While Muse was definitely the complex and driven villain, Bilal was just as definitely the tragic villain who you wanted to turn good, and felt that his death was a tragedy.
Being a huge sci-fi fan that I am (especially of properties like Star Trek and Firefly) I love how this felt like it could have easily been some kind of adventure taking place on a damaged and stranded spaceship, and yet it took place in very real locations with very real conflicts. It also contained some themes that one often sees in superhero films – people in desperate situations that are willing to sacrifice themselves to save others (Phillips), as well as being rescued from nefarious individuals (the pirates) by other individuals with great power and resources (the Navy). Given, one could rightly say that sci-fi and superheroes appropriate these themes from real-world stories like this, but I feel like I see these themes used in the fantastical world of sci-fi far more frequently, and it was refreshing to see these story elements utilized in a grounded and real-world setting.
Lastly, I loved seeing this mind games that the characters played with each other (including Hanks, the pirates, and the Navy). For me, intellectual sparring can be just as compelling to watch as actual physical battles, and this movie was full of mental maneuvers. Despite the number of times various characters said “No tricks!,” there were plenty of tricks played by all.
Please let me know what you thought of this movie in the comments section! Was this movie as suspenseful for you as it was for me? If you’ve seen this before, was it as suspenseful the second time around? Did you see any of the sci-fi and superhero story elements that I did, or did this seem entirely like a real-world drama? What was your favorite performance of the film? Sound off below!
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