Oscar nominee review: ‘Captain Phillips’


WASHINGTON, February 8, 2014 —With eight weekends between the announcement of the Oscar nominee’s and the award ceremony itself, many people will be going to the theaters to try and get caught up on the hottest films this winter. Each week, we will spotlight one of the Oscar’s star films from the Best Picture Category by going out to the movies, and then recapping the film here on the site.

This week, we showcase “Captain Phillips,” directed by Paul Greengrass and starring Tom Hanks and Barkhad Adbi.

“Captain Phillips” is sure to get people talking. Whether your interest are in the real life drama surrounding the film, the feel good story of a Somali making it in Hollywood, or absence of Tom Hanks from any category this year, everyone will walk out of the theater with something to say about this movie.

Unfortunately, there are also things about this film people will not be talking about. “Captain Phillips” is not this year’s best film. It is exciting. It tells an interesting story. And there are moments, however brief, that do exactly what they should. Thrill. Excite. Frighten. But the film, as a whole, fails to deliver anything worthy of Best Picture. It should, and probably is, honored to be nominated.

The story that the film tells is a recent one in the memories of most movie-goers. Out on a seemingly routine merchant trip through pirate infested waters, Captain Richard Phillips (Hanks) and the crew of the Maersk Alabama are taken hostage in the Indian Ocean. The typical business model for these scurvy dogs is simple, take the ship hostage, get paid by the insurance company to let it go, then hoist the mainstay and make port back in Somalia.

Unfortunately, these don’t seem like the fun kind of pirates, and the result is our brave Captain being taken hostage in a life boat by the Pirate Captain Muse (Adbi) and his crew.

The film itself came under criticism upon its release for over-dramatizing the events at hand and for making Captain Philips out to be more gallant or less at fault than he actually was. But, examining the facts of the case and the accusations in the media, the film seems to cover the issues presented. Hanks’ portrayal of the Captain is of a man interested in doing his job, not in making friends with his shipmates. Only those present on the Maersk Alabama can really know how accurate the film is, but accusing it of romanticizing the events seems far-fetched.

The plot circles around our two captains: Muse and Phillips. Muse, played by Barkhad Adbi, is Adbi’s first attempt at acting. This Somali native turned Limo Driver turned DJ has earned himself an Academy Award nomination for playing the pirate Captain with all the eerie unhinged wonderfulness we would want from any super-villain. Chances are he will get edged out for the actual award, but it would be wonderful to see him take it home.

Hanks’ story is almost the complete opposite. The Academy was decried for excluding Hanks from the Best Actor category this year, but his performance in the film is hardly his best. Whatever else he may be, Richard Philips seems to be a rather boring man. We get a truly astounding 10 minutes from Hanks at the very end of the film, but if his hopes were to beat out some of the other Best Actor nominees this year, it’s a classic case of too little too late.

“Captain Philips” will certainly generate some kind of conversation in your house this Oscar season. If for no other reason, the events upon which it is based are still fresh in our memories.

Did you see this film? Leave us notes in the comments about what you thought. And check back next week for the next installment in our countdown to the Academy Awards.

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