The recent Academy Awards were announced and to my shock and dismay Paul Greengrass’ s latest film, Captain Phillips was not nominated for the two Oscars is should have been nominated for; Best Actor and Best Director. Every year the Academy is infamous for nominating those who, while excellent were not better than some that were better. To omit Tom Hanks and Paul Greengrass is scandalous. The general consensus by the Academy is that Tom Hanks has been nominated five times and won two so he can go pound salt. But that did not stop the bozos in the Academy from nominating Meryl Streep for her 18th nomination. Yes, you read that right; 18. Paul Greengrass’s failure to garner a nomination is anybody’s guess. Both are worthy.
Captain Phillips is the true story of the title character and his crew on a Maersk cargo container ship, The Alabama, that was boarded by Somali pirates in 2009 and held for ransom. At least, that was their intent, anyway. Tom Hanks is Captain Phillips. He is a driven, hardworking seaman who knows his business but is uneasy about this trip even before he and his crew cast off. But, they have a job to do, regardless of the dangers. As the journey continues, Phillips’s suspicions are confirmed when he sees two boats heading their way only a day or so into the Alabama’s journey. Try as they might to stave off the Somalis, eventually they do get aboard. The rest of the film is how Philips tries to bargain his and his crew’s way out of their situation. Barkhad Abdi is Muse, the lead pirate. “I’m the captain, now,” he says sporting an AK-47. Mr. Abdi’s performance is excellent. His performance is unpolished and he is not your standard glossy Hollywood villain. Muse and his gang are desperate but Muse is smarter than he is given credit for. Philips has told the crew to hide, “You know the ship. They don’t, ” he barks into the intercom as Phillips knows it is only a matter of time before they are boarded. What follows is a crisp and intense thriller as Phillips, at gunpoint, is forced to take Muse and his henchmen through the ship searching for the crew. This is the first half of the film. The second portion of the film deals with the Somalis taking Phillips on one of the life boats from the Alabama and trying to make their way to shore, where God only knows what they would have done to him. The military had been notified and their one mission was to make sure the Somali’s never make it to shore with Phillips.
Barkhad Abdi has been nominated for Best Supporting Actor. Is he deserving of the nod? No. Not to say his performance is not worthy, but there are others out there in other films (The Butler and Saving Mr. Banks) that have some great supporting performances that are more worthy of the Academy’s attention. I only say that because to NOT nominate Hanks is laughable, since both performances are hand in hand, so to speak. Hanks performance is smart, strong, but still maintains his human frailty as you will see in the last 10 minutes or so of just how scared Phillips was. It will bring tears to your eyes. Greengrass’s direction is solid and he keeps the film humming and Billy Ray’s screenplay (based on the book by Phillips, himself and Stephan Talty) is a true battle of the wits. Phillips feigns concern for the hijackers safety as he takes them all over the ship but avoids taking them to the hiding crew and Ray’s script coupled with Greengrass’s artful direction keeps you on the edge of your seat. It is a battle of the wits between Phillips and Muse and it is smart and well written.
I made the mistake of reading about this incident and its outcome BEFORE I saw the film. That is a mistake for some. Even though I knew t he outcome, it did not affect my reaction to the film. Some might react differently so it is not advised. Obviously, if Phillips wrote the book, he survived, HOWEVER, the story of how Phillips was saved is truly amazing, so I will not say anymore. Suffice to say, Captain Phillips is a terrific film; one of the year’s best films. It is sharp, observant to human nature and a thrilling adventure and if the last 10 minutes don’t bring a tear to your eye then you might want to stick yourself with a pin to see if you are breathing.