This movie is fresh in my mind, because I put off actually watching it for awhile. I kept hearing it was great, and that Tom Hanks did a helluva job. Then it got nominated for quite a few awards and I was like, "Hey, I should probably watch this." "Captain Phillips" is one of those movies you're either gonna love it, or you're gonna hate it. I was one of those ones that would've be in the minority for much of the film, until, for me, it finally kicked in. Tom Hanks and Barkhad Abdi, star in this "based on a true story" film that starts to hit you the deeper you get into the viewing. I'm glad it finally kicked in too, because I didn't want to have to completely write this film off.
"Captain Phillips" follows the story of Captain Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks) as he takes command of the MV Maersk Alabama, an unarmed container ship. It is set to sail through the Gulf of Aden around the Horn of Africa. The crew is wary of Somali pirates that were notorious for having a ton of activity in the area. During one of the ships drills, it is given chase by two Somali vessels. Phillips is able to lose both of them after bluffing calling for an airstrike. The next day, one of the vessels returns, is heavily armed and led by Abduwali Muse (Barkhad Abdi). Despite everyone's best efforts, the pirates board the Maersk Alabama and take control of it. Phillips tries to reason with Muse and offers him the money in the ship's safe. Muse is under orders from his boss to take the ship, and crew, hostage to exchange them for millions of dollars in insurance money. A crew member manages to cut the power, leading to the capture of Muse, while the other pirates still have Phillips. They arrange a trade, Phillips for Muse and a life boat. The pirates have other plans at they take both the ship and Phillips and escape. With the stolen life boat heading for the shore, Phillips life is in grave danger. He is now a bargaining chip between Somali pirates and the money they want.
This was a movie that was a complete tale of two halves for me. We'll start with the obvious, the first part of the film, as in everything that sets up the climactic final 30-40 minutes of the film. Quite frankly, despite all the hijacking, action and the like, the first half of this movie was way to slow paced. Sure the scenes where the Somali pirates take over the ship are good. It's those moments in between are what got me. Almost like a horror movie setting up tension, but then for only a few seconds of adrenaline to follow. I like a well paced film that doesn't feel as rushed as the next person. But, when it becomes boring that's when I have a problem. Attention to detail is great, but there's time where you just have to leave some things out and not include every moment of something. As great as Tom Hanks was, as great as Barkhad Abdi was, there were multiple scenes that felt really unneeded or just too long. To steal a quote from "Pineapple Express", "If there's one quality I hate in a person, it's lingering." This is a movie that would've benefited from a shorter theatrical cut, then a director's cut to be released later. Not saying that everything about the first half of this movie was bad. The story is adapted well, and it really does set up the second half of the movie to end strong. The acting was fine and the cinematography and set design were really good.
Then we get to the second half of the film and the climax. This is when the pacing and the story really start to click. The tension is cranked up to 11 and Tom Hanks really begins to shine. I was skeptical of Tom Hanks getting all these nominations. Then this film hit me like a train. Tom Hanks is the big name, Barkhad Abdi is the support. It's almost a two man show with a bunch of extras. Hanks carries the second half so well. The emotion, the immersion, and the realism of everything happening. This is one of those roles you can tell an actor really poured themselves into. Then we come to the counter balance to Hanks in Abdi. In his first major film role, he knocks it out of the park. He turns a character that could almost certainly considered "just a pirate", into one that actually has some remorse for actions, a thinking mind and a conscience. The two play off of each other so well, it was really awesome to watch them get entrenched in their roles. It helps the overall product as well. With a movie like this you need to feel a sense of urgency accompanied with massive tension. The first half you could tell, bad stuff was happening, obviously. When you get to the climax though, it's on a whole nother level. You feel for the characters, you almost get into each of their heads and begin to think what they're thinking in a given moment. It's really a cool thing to be able to do that with a film. Like I said in the previous paragraph, the writing was great. Then by this point, when you combine the writing with the acting and score, you really have a good one on your hands. I just really wish I hadn't found the first half so bothersome. Because the climax and ending of "Captain Phillips" is how you should end always action thriller.
"Captain Phillips" is a film that is a mixed bag, but not for the reasons you'd think. The acting between Tom Hanks and Barkhad Abdi are great, and you can clearly see why they got nominations. They really are well deserved. The climax and ending had me completely into it as well. The first half just rubs me the wrong way. Maybe I can go back in the future for a re-watch and be able to get into it. "Captain Phillips" has two great performances for sure, but it's a film that's not going to stand a chance against others to win Best Picture.