Sunday, February 09, 2014

Best Picture Primer: Captain Phillips

Director Paul Greengrass isn't the most prolific director, as Captain Phillips is only his third film since 2007, but when he does get behind the lens, there are few that can match him in terms of frenetic energy and intensity.

The true story of piracy around the Horn of Africa strips away everything Johnny Depp did for pirates, and replaces it with fear, desperation, and automatic rifles.  Tom Hanks is masterful, but measures his performance enough that head pirate Barkhad Abdi is able to match him note for note. 

Greengrass' direction keeps the viewer on the edge of his seat, and the imposing sense that something is boiling just below the film's surface makes its 134-minute runtime fly by.

Unfortunately, Captain Phillips' Best Picture chances are hindered by it not being, frankly, a very nice story.  The film stays fairly close to the original story, but, ultimately, there are no great lessons learned, or moral judgments outlined.  There was no blow to be struck against piracy; hell, the crew sued the shipping line for knowingly sailing through pirate-infested waters.  Whether the message is good, bad, uplifting or depressing, it needs to be more substantial than, "This happened, it will happen again."

Other Nominations

Best Supporting Actor - Barkhad Abdi
Film Editing - Christopher Rouse
Sound Editing - Oliver Tarney
Sound Mixing - Chris Burdon, Mark Taylor, Mike Prestwood Smith, Chris Munro
Adapted Screenplay - Billy Ray

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