Looking at ‘Captain Phillips’

captain-phillips-posterIt’s been truly a funny summer at the movies this year, if you ask me. Only few though impressed. But, with slap in the face films like Iron Man brought nothing spectacular, even in the story department. The summer then, so unfortunate for us, remained dull; of course, with a bit of a funny taste on the tongue. Overall films in summer were nothing, but quite formulaic in nature as we stepped out from the season. Now, we are heading towards fall, winter and, yes, Oscar season. Impressively, so far, films that I have recently seen kind of taking a different route, showing us, good films are indeed part of this year.

Prisoners and Gravity brought the suspense and thriller back to their respective definitions, and fortunately we are not done with suspense and good thrillers as Captain Phillips just hit the theaters this Friday, directed by Paul Greengrass, the man behind the direction of films like United 93; The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum. Mentioning such titles are already good enough excuses to get up and buy a ticket to see Greengrass’ Captain Phillips.

The film is based on a true story of Captain Richard Phillips and the 2009 hijacking by Somali pirates of the US-flagged MV Maersk Alabama, the first American cargo ship to be hijacked in two hundred years.

Greengrass has for you extreme close-up shots, as actors perform their respective roles with great performances. Not only we have Tom Hanks as Captain Phillips delivering a passionate performance, for which I am sure he will earn a Oscar nomination, but the Somali actors as well, whom are amateur in the field of acting. And, if one looks, professionalism of these actors. their discipline in front of the camera makes one believe that they are real pirates and what we are watching is a documentary. Greengrass likes to have amateur actors in front of his camera, for example, the nurse in the end; she is a naval medic, performing, even though it is a short scene, a convincing performance for the first time, I am sure in front of the camera in front of the legendary Tom Hanks.

It’s a natural nail-biter of a film that will make one sweat as eyes glued to the screen, thirsty and eager to find out the fate of the characters. Interestingly, the film presents the motivation of both captains; Muse, the captain of the Somali pirates, says, “look at me. I am the captain now.” And there are reasons; subtle, convincing and meaningful purpose is behind such phrase. “I come too far. I can’t give up,” says Muse, as Captain Phillips looks on,  we then head to the film’s third act. Here, in a small space, not sure where in the world the camera is set, Greengrass’ direction, shows that he is indeed a true master of cinema, keeping us paranoid through and through. In the vastness of the ocean, the open cold air, the feeling of heat, suspense, like I said, in that small space, makes one to run for breath. A new one, for the lungs, if there will be an opportunity for our character to feel the sweetness of freedom.

Screenwriter Billy Ray has written the true story with kindness, perhaps it is because kindness still in the midst of chaos exists. As much as kindness, humanity one sees from Captain Phillips, the nature of being kind, also can be seen, in a way, yes, on the faces of some of the pirates. You can tell what they are doing is not a profession, but a necessity. Wrongdoing, of any nature, remains forever an evil deed. But, poverty and empty growling stomach makes some to dive and touch chaos blindfolded, eschewing to know, understand and feel that kindness matters, no matter what.. Captain Phillips, the film, most importantly is about leadership and that humanity will survive. And bad decisions will always have a dull consequence. Captain Phillips is one of the best thrillers of our time. Even in the next ten to twenty years it will remain among the best thrillers.