Film Review: Captain Phillips

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Plot: Based on a true story about a US cargo ship being taken over by Somali pirates, as they kidnap the ship’s Captain (Tom Hanks), holding him hostage, and propelling the US Navy to interfere.

For whatever reason, movies just refuse to run under two hours these days. While there’s a lot to like about Captain Phillips, my brain had trouble recalling the good stuff as it tried to navigate through all the muddled scenes that unfortunately plagued this movie. It’s repetitive. It’s boring. But most of all, the second act refuses to focus on the one aspect I really liked about this film, and that is of course Tom Hanks.

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Tom Hanks is one of the greatest actors of all time, no questions asked. But it’s been a while since we’ve seen a vintage LIVE ACTION Tom Hanks performance. To be fair though, I have not seen Charlie Wilson’s War. Hanks was the only reason I was looking forward to Captain Phillips. I got to tell you though, I was supremely disappointed at the end result. Let me be very clear – the fault is not with Hanks, but with director Paul Greengrass.

In the first act, I thoroughly enjoyed Hank’s performance. I got a good sense of who this guy was, as he’s constantly over preparing to the point of pissing people off, but he doesn’t care. The first half hour in general is pretty solid. We watch Phillips run the ship, doing everything he possibly can to avert disaster. Even though it meanders a little bit, there’s some good tension and trickery along the way. You could tell Hanks was really building towards something in his performance, that is until it was ripped away from him in the second act.

The middle part of this film just isn’t very compelling, as it mostly takes place on a confined life boat. Greengrass focuses mostly on the pirates, especially their leader, Muse, played by Barkhad Abdi. Abdi turns in a great performance, but the character is way underwritten to be carrying such a good chunk of the film. The only two characters of note are Muse and Captain Phillips, which wouldn’t be a problem if they were better developed. Aside from one good dialogue exchange, their conflict has no meat.

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The real issue with this whole sequence though is the lack of focus on Captain Phillips. Why aren’t we giving him more dialogue! Seriously, there’s a twenty minute period where it’s just Muse and his companions arguing about the same crap, and it goes absolutely nowhere. Phillips is just sitting off to the side drinking water and breathing heavily. There is no intensity whatsoever, and it’s a complete waste of Tom Hanks.

It’s not until the last ten minutes where the film finally picks up again, and Tom Hanks is given a chance to return to form, and boy does he ever. This sequence alone may get him an Oscar nomination. For a movie that steadily lost my interest, Hanks owns the screen for an exceptionally powerful few minutes that makes this film definitely worth seeing at some point.

This movie had monster potential, but it’s just too damn slow. This easily could have been a tight 90 minute nerve-racking thrill ride, as another director would have absolutely hit this out of the park. The underwhelming score by Henry Jackman also adds to the film’s cookie-cutter Hollywood feel. Captain Phillips is a movie worth a look for moments of Tom Hanks brilliance, but that’s about it.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10 (Slightly Better than ‘Meh’)

Daniel Cohen is the hard-boiled Film Editor for the Pop Break. Besides reviews, Daniel writes box office predictions, Gotham reviews and Oscar coverage. He can also be found on the Breakcast. If Daniel was sprayed by Scarecrow's fear toxin, it would be watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on a non-stop loop.

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