Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Oscar Nominee Review: "Captain Phillips"

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 14 (of 2014) by Leroy Douresseaux

Captain Phillips (2013)
Running time:  134 minutes (2 hours, 14 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for sustained intense sequences of menace, some violence with bloody images, and for substance use
DIRECTOR:  Paul Greengrass
WRITER:  Billy Ray (A Captain's Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS, and Dangerous Days at Sea by Richard Phillips and Stephan Talty)
PRODUCERS:  Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca, and Scott Rudin
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Barry Ackroyd (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Christopher Rouse
COMPOSER:  Henry Jackman
Academy Award nominee


Starring:  Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi, Catherine Keener, Barkhad Abdirahman, Faysal Ahmed, Mahat M. Ali, Michael Chernus, David Warshofsky, Corey Johnson, Chris Mulkey, and Issak Farah Samatar

Captain Phillips is a 2013 thriller and drama from director Paul Greengrass.  The film is an adaptation of A Captain's Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS, and Dangerous Days at Sea by Richard Phillips and Stephan Talty.  The movie dramatizes the 2009 hijacking of the US-flagged MV Maersk Alabama by Somali pirates, the first American cargo ship to be hijacked in two hundred years.  Academy Award-winning actor Kevin Spacey is one of the film’s executive producers.

The film begins with Captain Richard “Rich” Phillips (Tom Hanks) taking command of the MV Maersk Alabama.  This unarmed container ship is scheduled to sail from the Port of Salalah (in the city of Salalah, Oman) through the Gulf of Aden to Mombasa, Kenya.  After an alert concerning pirate activity around the Horn of Africa, Captain Phillips orders strict security precautions on the vessel and carries out practice drills.  In fact, during those drills, two skiffs containing Somali pirates chase the Alabama.

One group of pirates is eventually successful and actually boards and takes control of the Alabama.  The skiff’s captain, Abduwali Muse (Barkhad Abdi), and his cohorts:  Adan Bilal (Barkhad Abdirahman), Walid Elmi (Mahat M. Ali), and Nour Najee (Faysal Ahmed), plan to ransom the ship and its crew for millions of dollars.  Captain Phillips has called for help, but can he stall the pirates before they start killing his crew?

Audiences can practically always count on director Paul Greengrass to deliver a riveting film and an edge-of-your-seat thriller with each of his movies.  Greengrass’ films aren’t the average run-of-the-mill action thrillers; they’re smart and filled with strong characters facing real-world dilemmas.  Captain Phillips is Greengrass’ best film since his Jason Bourne movies.  Greengrass gets a championship effort from his editor Christopher Rouse, who delivers a film that gets better and better, more engaging, more entrancing with each minute.

Although, Tom Hanks is the star and Rich Phillips is the title character and focus, in some way, Captain Phillips is also about Abduwali Muse.  First-time actor, Barkhad Abdi, delivers a superb performance.  Abdi’s acting is especially impressive as the film only focuses on Muse’s personality in the context of what comes out of his actions.  Since Muse does not get to show himself as a fully-developed human, Abdi has to sell him as a three-dimensional villain who only reveals his intentions (getting a ransom), and little beyond that.  I can see why Abdi earned such acclaim and an Oscar nomination to go with a BAFTA win as best supporting actor.

This is pretty much the same with Captain Phillips.  His motivation, conflicts, and dilemmas are seen only in the context of him being a captain of a ship and also a captain of a ship that is under duress.  Tom Hanks is known for playing characters that are totally or mostly open to the audience.  As Phillips, Hanks erects a wall that makes it only easy to feel sympathy, pity, and fear for Phillips.  However, Hanks is so good that he still manages to deliver some fantastic acting – something that is more performance art than it is performance of a character.

All of Captain Phillips is good, but the last forty minutes are a doozy.  The rescue operation makes a very good film a truly exceptional film.  I wish more thrillers were like Captain Phillips.

9 of 10

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

2014 Academy Awards, USA:  6 nominations: “Best Motion Picture of the Year” (Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti, and Michael De Luca), “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role” (Barkhad Abdi), “Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay” (Billy Ray), “Best Achievement in Film Editing” (Christopher Rouse), “Best Achievement in Sound Editing” (Oliver Tarney), and “Best Achievement in Sound Mixing” (Chris Burdon, Mark Taylor, Mike Prestwood Smith, and Chris Munro)

2014 Golden Globes, USA:  4 nominations: “Best Motion Picture – Drama,” “Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama” (Tom Hanks), “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture” (Barkhad Abdi), and “Best Director - Motion Picture” (Paul Greengrass)

2014 BAFTA Awards:  1 win: “Best Supporting Actor” (Barkhad Abdi); 8 nominations: “Best Film” (Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti, and Michael De Luca), “David Lean Award for Direction” (Paul Greengrass), “Best Leading Actor” (Tom Hanks), “Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music” (Henry Jackman), “Best Adapted Screenplay” (Billy Ray), “Best Cinematography” (Barry Ackroyd), “Best Editing” (Christopher Rouse), “Best Sound” (Chris Burdon, Mark Taylor, Mike Prestwood Smith, Chris Munro, and Oliver Tarney)

2014 Black Reel Awards:  2 wins: “Outstanding Supporting Actor, Motion Picture” (Barkhad Abdi) and “Outstanding Breakthrough Performance, Male” (Barkhad Abdi)

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