The Herald of Everett, Washington
HeraldNet on Facebook HeraldNet on Twitter HeraldNet RSS feeds HeraldNet Pinterest HeraldNet Google Plus HeraldNet Youtube
HeraldNet Newsletters  Newsletters: Sign up | Manage  Green editions icon Green editions

Calendar


Weekend to-do list
HeraldNet Newsletter Delivered to your inbox each week.
Published: Friday, October 11, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Hanks takes total control as 'Captain Phillips'

  • Tom Hanks (center) plays the title role in "Captain Phillips."

    Sony -- columbia pictures

    Tom Hanks (center) plays the title role in "Captain Phillips."

Tom Hanks is no superhero. Therefore this most human of movie stars is just right for the title role in "Captain Phillips," a movie that consistently rejects the idea of an indestructible superman in control.
The film is drawn from the 2009 hijacking of the Maersk Alabama cargo ship, which was seized by Somali pirates while sailing around the Horn of Africa. Rich Phillips, the captain, was taken hostage when the pirates escaped in a lifeboat; except for a brief prologue with Phillips at home, the film basically covers the pirate drama.
In most ways, "Captain Phillips" is a tight-wound suspense picture, but it rejects easy hero-vs.-villain button-pushing. Some of that comes from the documentary-like style of director Paul Greengrass, whose main gift is to plunk you into the middle of a crisis as though it's actually happening at that moment.
Greengrass directed "United 93" and the latter two "Bourne" spy movies, and you will recognize his jittery style (the guy is allergic to tripods).
He and screenwriter Billy Ray worked from Capt. Phillips' book about the incident, "A Captain's Duty," although some liberties have been taken.
The potential for throat-clutching anxiety is obvious, and there's plenty of that here. But it's an interesting movie in more ways than that. The sheer weirdness of 21st-century piracy -- this big modern cargo ship overtaken by four guys with guns -- is part of the fascination.
There's something almost surreal about the captain looking out from his clean, state-of-the-art bridge and seeing tiny specks pop up on the radar. How do those specks translate into the anachronistic idea of pirates?
Even more intriguingly, without getting bleeding-heart about it, Greengrass makes you curious about the Somali pirates. They're thugs, but also desperate men motivated by a variety of causes. Their leader is played by Barkhad Abdi, a Somalia native who moved to Minnesota after winning an immigration lottery.
Tom Hanks is key to making this more than a Sylvester Stallone slaughter-the-bad-guys exercise. Because he's our Everyman, we see in his face how anger, fear and comprehension vie for the upper hand during his grueling experience.
As though to squash any sense of triumphalism, the film offers an extraordinary final sequence that conveys how shattering an experience like this might be even if one survives it. And here Tom Hanks excels--and by implication, proves how phony the idea of the superhero really is.
"Captain Phillips" (three and a half stars)
Tom Hanks excels in this account of the 2009 Maersk Alabama hijacking, when Somali pirates got the upper hand over a U.S. cargo ship off the Horn of Africa. Director Paul Greengrass makes this a gripping suspense picture, and he and Hanks make sure the captain is no superhero.
Rated: PG-13 for violence, language.
Showing: Alderwood Mall, Edmonds, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Stanwood, Guild 45th, Meridian, Thornton Place, Oak Harbor.
Story tags » Movies

Share your comments: Log in using your HeraldNet account or your Facebook, Twitter or Disqus profile. Comments that violate the rules are subject to removal. Please see our terms of use. Please note that you must verify your email address for your comments to appear.

You are logged in using your HeraldNet ID. Click here to update your profile. | Log out.

Our new comment system is not supported in IE 7. Please upgrade your browser here.

comments powered by Disqus

HeraldNet highlights

Nothing but corn
Nothing but corn: Everett Mall business grew from a kernel of an idea
History at every turn
History at every turn: Website finds stories behind county's historic corners
Cold-weather playtime
Cold-weather playtime: Beyond skis & snowboards: 11 ways to have fun in winter
The real bottom line
The real bottom line: Millions spent in Oso, but generosity can't be measured
SnoCoSocial