Captain Phillips Review
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For movie lovers with a less-than-iron stomach, there’s nothing more terrifying than the old shaky-cam technique. Whether it’s a found-footage film that’s meant to look like an amateur home video or an action film that jumps and jolts and moves in and out of focus, it can turn the best of movies into a stomach-turning tragedy. Director Paul Greengrass is one of the worst offenders—but if you can stomach the shaky-cam, you’ll find plenty of drama and suspense in his latest film, Captain Phillips.

In this real-life high seas adventure, Tom Hanks stars as Rich Phillips, captain of the American container ship Maersk Alabama. In the spring of 2009, as Captain Phillips plans his route from Oman to Kenya, he takes extra security precautions, knowing that the voyage will take him through the pirate-heavy seas off the coast of Somalia.

Unfortunately, the extra drills can’t really prepare the captain and his crew for the terrifying reality that awaits them. And after four Somali pirates board the ship, Captain Phillips finds himself in a battle of wits—and wills—against Somali pirate captain Muse (Barkhad Abdi).

I’ll admit that I’ve come to dread Paul Greengrass films; my stomach just can’t take them. Fortunately, Captain Phillips isn’t as bad as some of the director’s earlier films. That’s not to say that it isn’t shaky. It still looks like the camera guys pounded back a few shots of espresso before getting to work. The film is filled with quick cuts and close-up shots of ears and cheeks and shoulders—and it jumps around so quickly that it rarely takes the time to get the shot into focus. If you suffer from motion sickness, you’ll have to fight to keep your dinner safely in place.

That said, though, some of the shaky camera footage is actually appropriate. After all, most of the film takes place on a boat—and, admittedly, the quick cuts and disorienting action do sometimes help to emphasize the chaos and confusion of the situation.

Stomach-turning footage aside, however, Captain Phillips is a pretty remarkable film. It’s been a while since we’ve seen Hanks in a truly stand-out role, but the two-time Oscar winner provides the film with the perfect hero. His Captain Phillips is a likable, everyday guy who loves his family and takes both his job and his responsibilities to his crew very seriously. When things begin to fall apart, he handles the situation with a kind of calm, collected strength—in spite of his obvious fears. He’s smart, he’s thoughtful, and he’s determined—and he’s the kind of guy that you can get behind. Though the film is a little longer than necessary—and the action drags a bit in the middle—it’s tense and dramatic and undeniably gripping.

Captain Phillips definitely isn’t a film for the weak of heart—or stomach. But this frantic real-life thriller is a worthy award season contender—and a worthwhile journey. Before you embark on this seaworthy adventure, though, you might want to stock up on Dramamine.

Blu-ray Review:
Nominated for six Oscars—including Best Picture—Captain Phillips is an intense real-life drama. And if you want to learn more about the making of this heart-pounding, stomach-turning thriller, you’ll want to check out the film’s Blu-ray release (as an added bonus, it might cut down on your need for Dramamine, too). The special features menu includes just two items—a commentary with director Paul Greengrass and a three-party making-of feature—but they’re sure to give you a more in-depth look at the film, its background, and its production.

Of course, what the release could really use is more on the real Richard Phillips. He’s included in the extensive making-of feature, and those are some of the feature’s most interesting parts—because they allow viewers to hear the story from the man who lived it. But his parts are, unfortunately, limited. Instead, you’ll learn a little more about the story—and a whole lot more about the production and its various challenges.

For most casual viewers, this behind-the-scenes feature is probably more extensive than necessary—but it’s sure to give you a greater appreciation for the film and its challenging production.

Listen to the review on ReelDiscovery:

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