- Coping with holiday grief
- New water plan saves big money
- Campus police offer holiday safety tips
- Alys Stephen Center Screens Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago
- Hospital feeds underprivileged new moms
- UAB’s Alys Stephens Center presents Yo-Yo Ma Dec. 6
- Southern Miss tops Blazers, 62-27, in season ending game
- Henry Panion selected for 2014 Alabama African-American History Calendar
- Enjoy Christmas at the Alys Dec. 2, “The Season’s First Jingle”
- Engineering’s Ning wins ASTM International award
- Collat School of Business unveils sign at celebration
- Heudebert elected master by American College of Physicians
- Anti-aging strategies can improve more than looks
- On campus ‘blackout’ taken in stride
- Bariatric Surgery Services to present annual fashion show Nov. 25
‘Captain Phillips’ a Spellbinding Voyage
And the nominee is…
In his latest bid for Oscar bait, and his first of two this season- along with the forthcoming Saving Mr. Banks, in which he plays no less than Walt Disney himself, Tom Hanks plays literal bait in the intense Captain Philips. Hanks is the titular, real-life Captain Richard Phillips in this arresting biopic that’s all the more riveting because it actually happened. Phillips was in charge of the Maersk Alabama, which was besieged by actual bona fide pirates, and not the fun Caribbean kind.
If this sounds fantastical and hard to believe, it kind of is. Indeed, the ship was the first US Merchant Marine vessel to be seized by pirates since the early 19th century! The awful irony is that the ship was in the process of delivering food and aid to places like Somalia, where the pirates were themselves from. So they were, in essence, only hurting their own people, among others in desperate need.
Granted, the pirates were also looking to clean up in terms of ransom for the kidnapping of Phillips, who they absconded with after discovering there was hardly any cash on board. Also worth noting is that the crew scoffed when the hard-nosed, by-the-numbers Phillips insisted on drilling the procedures for dealing with pirates just before it actually happened. That preparedness may well have saved their lives, as the only person that was ultimately really harmed was Phillips himself, who was brutally manhandled by the pirates over the course of his imprisonment.
Thankfully, Phillips escaped the horrific experience in one piece, but that doesn’t make the movie any less enthralling. If anything, the film becomes almost unbearably suspenseful at times, even if you already know how it ends. (Last week’s similarly- themed Gravity was even more effective in this area, as, unlike this film, you weren’t exactly sure how it was going to end.) No one wants to see Tom Hanks beaten and abused, after all, which is what makes his casting perfect.
Also worth a mention is the smarter-than-the-average-pirate Muse, played by newcomer Barkhad Abdi, in a knock-out, star-making performance, made all the more remarkable in that it is his acting debut. Not only is Muse not falling for some of Phillips’ oft-clever tricks, but his portrayal manages to find the line between being an outright villain and someone who’s simply a desperate man pushed to extreme measures that doesn’t necessarily want to hurt anyone…but will if he has to. It’s an excellent turn, and might result in an Oscar nomination for Abdi as well.
The producers (which include actor Kevin Spacey) really got the perfect director for the job in Paul Greengrass, best known for two films in the Bourne series and for such true-life dramatizations as Bloody Sunday, about the shooting of Irish activists; and United 93, about the plane hijacked on 9/11. His you-are-there style is ideal for a film like this, and though some may hate the whole shaky-cam approach, it can be effective if used right, and in moderate ways, as Greengrass does here. It takes genuine skill to make a story people know the end of still exciting, and Greengrass gets it done with a minimum of flash, in a no-nonsense, just-the-facts style that suits the material wonderfully.
This is really turning out to be one of the best years for film imaginable, and remarkably, Oscar season’s only just begun. Captain Phillips is a definite contender, to be sure. I can’t believe it, but I’m going to have to give this one an A+, too. It’s just that good.