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Movie Review: Captain Phillips

A film review of Captain Phillips, starring Tom Hanks

Tom Hanks stars in Columbia Pictures' "Captain Phillips." Copyright: © 2013 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Hopper Stone, SMPSP

The last time that Tom Hanks was nominated for an Academy Award for ‘Best Actor’ was in 2000 for his portrayal of the stranded FedEx employee, Chuck Noland, in Cast Away. The last time he won the Academy Award for ‘Best Actor’? Almost twenty years ago for Forrest Gump. It can be deduced, however, that Hanks’ portrayal of Captain Richard Phillips could be the change in his nomination drought.

Captain Phillips is based on the true story of the Maersk Alabama hijacking in March of 2009, in which four Somali pirates boarded the cargo ship and captured Phillips in one of the ship’s lifeboats in an attempt to exchange him for ransom. Not short of thrilling and explosive moments, the film is unpredictable, energetic and exhilarating for over two hours, rarely giving audience members to unhinge themselves from their white-knuckle grip on their armrests.

In addition to the gripping storyline, there were several achievements in the direction of visuals and sound. Throughout the film there was a frequent use of a hand-held camera, creating for a shaky and unstable visualization of the events. The hand-held camera created for a documentary-like feel, which added to the suspense and realism of the film. Normally the use of hand-held cameras makes me slightly nauseated and seasick (no pun intended), but it’s use in Captain Phillips was effective and helped to instill the fear and tension in audience members that was being felt on the Maersk Alabama. In addition to the use of the hand-held camera, there were multiple extreme close ups on the character’s faces, specifically Captain Phillips (Tom Hanks) and the pirate captain, Abduwali Muse (Barkhad Abdi), in a successful attempt at provoking even more of an emotional pull.

The film also makes an incredible use of sound and music. There are moments of musical crescendo when audiences are tensely anticipating a climactic event to take place, and there are also moments of near deafening silence. The silence is only interrupted by the sound of waves crashing against the lifeboat or the eerie noise of a pirate creeping down a flight of stars in search for Captain Phillips’ crew. Both uses of sound are effective in creating a tension-filled atmosphere throughout the movie.

Captain Phillips is able to show you what real fear looks like. How real fear feels. You look fear in the face and it looks back at you in a way that feels real, not necessarily cinematic. Although you enter the theatre already feeling sure about the outcome, the almost agonizing moments of suspense force you to ask yourself if you really know how things will end.

Tom Hanks stars in Columbia Pictures' "Captain Phillips."
Jasin Boland
© 2013 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


Captain Phillips is an achievement; which a testament to the visuals, sound, storyline and (possibly most important of all) the incredible acting from Tom Hanks, who some say has given his best performance to date. I would personally say that although it is pretty hard to beat Forrest Gump, Captain Phillips comes close enough for government work.

Possible Oscar Nominations:
Best Picture
Best Actor in a Leading Role
Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Best Director
Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Cinematography

Review Ratings:
Pretty Good
Below Average
Profoundly Terrible

What did you think about Captain Phillips?

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