Captain Phillips

Captain Phillips ★★★½

Apparently Greengrass' epileptic camerawork gets cancelled out somewhat by bobbing in the ocean. For someone who hates the excessive shaky cam aesthetics, I found myself surprisingly enthralled by the effective use of it here. Captain Phillips is perhaps the first Greengrass film where I feel he strikes a perfect balance between his frenetic and busy camerawork and has it actually serving a purpose and enhancing the scenes he is directing. Here, the suspenseful moments, most notably towards the end, become almost unbearably tense because of the up close and personal hand held camera work, without compromising on visualizing the action. Greengrass' workmanlike approach and attention to detail with meticulous mise en scene really pays off here, lifting it up somewhat above being a mediocre thriller.

And that's what it is. A thriller. And as such, it already has one thing against it. The outcome is already known as it is based on real events, with the emphasis on 'based on', as it takes some (necessary) creative liberties. The fact that it manages to even create any tension at all is pretty impressive to begin with. The insubstantial and unnecessary pin pricks of social commentary are small blemishes on an otherwise perfectly decent script. Greengrass does stretch it to its limits, making it a tad too long, but still, it never really outstays its welcome. It is a decent and professionally made recounting of a romanticised event that should just provide entertainment, but occasionally shoots itself in the foot by haphazardly trying to have 'something to say'. It's solid, nothing more and nothing less.

And then along comes Tom Hanks who just lifts it to a whole other level in the final twenty minutes or so. I'm not the biggest Hanks fan, but I don't mind him either. I appreciate his versatility, but his latest projects felt a bit lazy and uninspired. Throughout Captain Phillips he manages to take himself out of the equation completely, downplays just about everything and focusses on giving us a very real and human protagonist. In the first two acts he's a joy to watch. No frills, no tricks, just a guy who is good at his job and who has to make a series of tough decisions. The thing that he captures so well in the looks he gives, especially when he's alone with the hijackers in the lifeboat, is a sense of slowly losing control of the situation, yet always trying to stay in control of his emotions and staying strong. When he reaches breaking point, it is devastating, almost primal. Hanks produces a rawness there I haven't seen from him very often. This is followed by a scene that is one of the best acted scenes I have seen the past year. Hanks is mesmerizing in that scene, that scene where he is broken, free, safe, scared and in complete and utter shock. There was apparently some completely unnecessary manipulative music playing in the background. Didn't even hear it, I was so enthralled by the powerful display of raw emotion by Hanks.

Stunning.

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