Sunday, January 19, 2014

Video review: "Captain Phillips"

Director Paul Greengrass is not a man who deals in moral absolutes. In “Captain Phillips” he, along with screenwriter Billy Ray and star Tom Hanks, relate the true story of an American cargo ship captain who was kidnapped at sea by Somali pirates. Rather than making the bad guys faceless, soulless villains, he portrays them as real, thinking individuals who feel pressured to commit acts of piracy.

This is not to say that the film attempts to paint a flattering portrait of the pirates in favor of the American. But by making the guys behind the guns seem full-blooded and human themselves, it only serves to underscore the peril of the title character.

Barkhad Abdi is just terrific as Muse, the head of the pirates. Desperate, but also clever and empathetic, he engages in a war of wills with Phillips, who spends the second half of the movie as his prisoner, crammed into a dingy lifeboat.

The fact that Abdi, an acting novice, manages to hold his own with a powerhouse like Hanks speaks well not only of his own screen presence, but Greengrass’ expert direction.

The scene where Phillips is finally rescued from his ordeal and brought aboard a Navy ship for medical treatment is some of the best acting you will ever see, with Hanks shining as a man who's been through hell and is trying to keep it all together, and failing.

A live-wire act coupled with a deep character study, “Captain Phillips” is the rare drama that doesn’t settle for simple black-and-white answers.

Video extras are the same for Blu-ray and DVD versions, and have a certain amount of heft without being particularly ambitious. There are three behind-the-scenes featurettes about various aspects of production, and a feature-length commentary track supplied by Greengrass.


Extras: B-minus

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