Not a Movie Snob - Captain Phillips

Posted on Saturday, March 01, 2014 at 05:00 PM

Captain Phillips

Paul Greengrass is visceral. That’s the only word I have for the guy. His films are intense, often gritty, often realistic thrillers that have helped popularize handheld action cinema. Regardless of what your favourite Bourne movie is, there’s no denying the spark he brought to the series, directing two of the four entries.

Captain Phillips is a film based on actual events. Specifically the attempted hijacking of an American freighter ship by Somalian pirates and the ensuing hostage situation involving the captain of the ship.

Tom Hanks plays the captain in a piece of casting which is both obvious and inspired. Who else to play the everyman, salt of the earth captain than the movie star who more than any other feels less like a celebrity in some far off land, than a member of your own family. This makes him the obvious choice for the role. What makes the choice inspired is that by placing someone you feel warm and fuzzy about in great peril for almost two straight hours, it makes for an incredibly intense experience.

The pirates are played by mostly unknown, in some cases, entirely unexperienced Somalian actors. These performances are not only the most authentic, but the most realistic. You truly do not feel as though you are watching someone act when these men are on the screen. Tom Hanks is Tom Hanks, call him whatever you want, you’re watching Tom Hanks and you know you are. But the Somali pirates are just that. Barkhad Abdi has been getting most of the attention for playing pirate leader Muse, with Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations among his recent accomplishments, but all four of the men who play the pirate captors are worthy of high praise and recognition for their work here.

I saw Captain Phillips ‘cold.’ Meaning I went in without any knowledge or idea of what it was, save that it had Tom Hanks, was directed by Greengrass and involved ships. I didn’t see a preview, didn’t read an article, didn’t check Rotten Tomatoes for its critical score. I do this on purpose sometimes because:

a) Gambling gives me a rush.
b) Seeing a film you know nothing about and being blown away by it, as I was by this film, can make for a far richer experience than going into the theatre with preconceived expectations.
c) And, there’s something romantic about rolling the dice on a movie. Particularly in this (over) information age where nothing is secret and films are so overmarketed, you’ve more or less seen a third of it before it comes out.

Not knowing what to expect, my initial reaction to Captain Phillips was overwhelming (in a good way). This is one of the most intense, exciting, emotional movies I have seen in years. It was my single greatest experience at the theatre this year. The big question is, how does that translate to my living room? I’ve seen the film, I know what happens, will it be as good, as intense, as emotional on a smaller screen the second time around? Well, I’ve seen the film twice at home and I am happy to report that not only was the experience just as rich, but it enabled me to pay attention to and catch things I had missed the first time around.

The bottom line is that Captain Phillips is just a fantastic piece of cinema. You could watch this movie on your iPhone on the bus on the way to work and your heart rate is still guaranteed to go up about 20 bpm.

The Oscar race for Best Picture is pretty tight this year. In fact, this is one of the tightest races I can recall. With no front running favourite, no King’s Speech if you will, the little gold man is up for grabs. Don’t expect eye rolling if it winds up in Captain Phillips’ corner.



NOTE: The showtimes listed on come directly from the theatres' announced schedules, which are distributed to us on a weekly basis. All showtimes are subject to change without notice or recourse to