Captain Phillips (2013)
Director: Paul Greegrass
Starring: Tom Hanks (Saving Private Ryan)
Genre: Thriller, Action
Captain Phillips simply tells the story of a boat hijacking. This has drawn comparisons to the recent Danish film ‘A Hijacking’. You can watch the trailer for A Hijacking below.
Comparisons are not normally a problem; it certainly isn’t a crime to have two films of the same subject matter within a year of each other, especially when they are borne out of entirely different studio systems, but where it starts to work against Captain Phillips is that A Hijacking has garnered extremely positive reviews, thus leaving Hanks & co with a lot to live up to. It is one thing to compare a modern war film, for instance, to Apocalypse Now and show how it doesn’t match up, but to have a lower budget, Danish film just a year previously better your Hollywood effort, then it becomes embarrassing. So how does Captain Phillips match up?
First of all, if you are to tackle a great Nordic thriller film with a Hollywood one, you wouldn’t want anyone other than Paul Greengrass at the helm. With the best two Bourne films as well as United 93 under his belt, he certainly has earned his place as one of the best Drama/Action/Thriller directors of his generation. Interestingly, with the latter, United 93, it can be seen that Greengrass isn’t entirely new to the themes of a hijacking. While that film naturally had much more of an emotional weight, being about the 9/11 attacks, it’s clear that it is a similar situation in Captain Phillips and thus one that Greengrass must be drawn to.
Greengrass injects the story with his trademark ‘shaky-cam’ style. Clearly thinking the ocean-setting isn’t vomit-inducing enough, in the first 20 minutes you also have to adjust to your view manically waving around, even during just a quiet conversation between Captain Phillips and his wife. As the hijacking gets into full swing, however, it is absolutely necessary to convey the hysteria. This always seems to be the case for a Greengrass film, and the shaky-cam always seems to be warranted, however it would be interesting to see how he would shoot a Romantic-Comedy. Could he be a one-trick, if not necessarily one-film, pony?
Oh, but what a trick. You could never claim that this film isn’t seeping with tension, even in the quiet moments, so Greengrass’ visual tactic clearly does its job. The whole film reeks of it, spearheaded by a great performance from Tom Hanks. While it may be untoward to criticise Hanks of resting on his laurels, it could be said that he hasn’t tackled a role this physical and startling since Cast Away, way back in 2000. This is a shame, as we have always known he can succeed with the deeper roles (Saving Private Ryan, The Green Mile), but he maybe hasn’t given himself the opportunity to show us what he’s got in recent years. In Phillips, he most certainly does. In the movie you will be glued to your seat for 120 minutes, only then to be gut-punched by one of the most effective, realistic and touching pieces of acting you are ever likely to see. Here, Hanks is on top form, and it is refreshing to see why such a big actor ‘got big’; because his level of performance warrants fame.
In terms of negatives, of which there are few, the pacing of the film is in question. Although, as previously mentioned, there is always tension and your mind is never wandering, there is a case to say that at the two-thirds point the film needs a kick up the you-know-what, which doesn’t exactly come until quite a bit later. It settles into a section of melancholy for what feels like too long, despite the fact that you do learn a lot about the hijackers in this time. To say any more would be to err too close to spoilers.
Also, it is no secret from what the trailer shows that the U.S Navy makes an appearance. It is fair to say that they are portrayed in a somewhat ‘superhero’ light that is comical when coming from a U.S movie. With all the positives of the film, however, this can be forgotten, and it is ultimately a facetious point.
Summary: Great film? Yes. And with that, it’s earned its right to stand side-by-side with A Hijacking. Some will have opinions on which one is better, but we can all guess what you will get from a Danish Hijacking movie, compared to a Hollywood one. And from those assumptions, based on your taste, take your pick.
Rating: 4 out of 5