• Captain Phillips (2013) - Four new star actors are born - 7/10 (20/10/13)

    Captain Phillips (2013)


    "Captain Philipps" is an American action-drama inspired by but not closely based on actual events. The real Captain Philipps acted a lot less heroic and more ignorant than in this movie adaption that simply tries to do what many recent Hollywood movies do. They portray the hard but honest everyday life of a seemingly normal American citizen who suddenly faces big challenges and becomes a national hero. In times of governmental shutdown, economical problems and a slowly progressing decline as the world's most important nation, people need a few new heroes to believe in American society again.

    In this movie, you see how democratic institutions, dominant military forces and social cohesion defeat corruption, exploitation and selfishness in the worst among the developing countries. The film presents the United States of America and Somalia as complementary antitheses which feels a little bit like lazy propaganda.

    While the main villain constantly expresses a positive opinion about the American dream and how he could have a better life in that country, I must though admit that the movie also shows us the dark sides of some typically American values as individualism and weapons happen to be completely useless to resolve this movie's issues. Diplomatic elements, earthiness and shrewdness are the key elements leading to a predictable happy ending instead of a loner's brute force.

    Apart of its minimal propaganda tendencies and the predictable ending, I didn't like the character of Captain Philipps at all. I'm not sure if Tom Hanks wanted to portray an arrogant and unsympathetic old bourgeois but if this was the intention of the makers, his acting is simply perfect. If the intentions were to create a sympathetic main actor, he completely failed though. It's hard to tell but usually, this kind of movie tries to create an emotional connection between the main character and the viewers and this movie just doesn't manage to build this up. From the beginning on, I had no connection with the main character and didn't really care about his fate.

    Another small but important element I didn't appreciate was the fact that the main villain's English was so good. It's more than just a surprise that a pirate living in a desperate country ridden by a bloody civil war for more than two decades is able to speak English so well. I'm not sure if a young man like this ever had the chance to go to school at all. That's why this little detail and the general profound interactions between Captain Philipps and Muse feel a little bit too fabulous to me.

    The movie's strengths are elsewhere. First of all, this film is filled with incredible tension and especially the claustrophobic and uneasy last third feels very intense and real. The acting is only one part of the gripping formula. The great soundtrack, the efficient light effects and the out-thought camera positioning create this nervous feeling. 

    The movie starts as a documentary in the first moments, slowly turns into an atmospheric thriller towards the middle, then it gets a refreshing action boost between the second and last third and it ends as an oppressive chamber piece. This mixture is very well balanced by the makers and the movie never gets boring in my opinion. Even though the content of the script is sometimes flawed, its general segment linearization is of the highest quality.

    The film also has its dramatic and philosophic elements as the villains aren't just brutal criminals but four very young and sometimes naive men who have no choice but to go through this hell to stay alive and take care of their elders and own families. The acting of the four Somalian pirates is simply outstanding and especially the performance by Abdi Barkhad is absolutely authentic and intense. Sometimes, the movie doesn't feel acted at all as if the real persons were replaying the tragic events that really happened in a slightly transformed way. This is where the movie almost looks like a documentary of the most intense kind.


    Despite its little flaws, this movie is truly intense and feels authentic. The first third has a few lengths but the last two thirds will keep you on the edge of your seat as almost no other movie this year. While the story itself and Tom Hank's acting aren't very good, the claustrophobic atmosphere and the incredible performances by the four young African actors are worth a few Academy Awards. I hope to see more from these four actors in the near future. 


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