By Joe Chadowski


Biopics are an interesting little sub-genre in filmmaking. The flow of real life events rarely, if ever, follows the typical story flow of rising action, climax then falling action. This puts the screen writer on a tight leash as they balance the scale of manipulating reality for the sake of cinema, while still remaining true to the source material. The line between immortality and failure is minute, here. Hit it right, and you have Social Network, get it wrong and you have Patch Adams. Where does Captain Phillips fall? Let’s explore.

Captain Phillips is a story most of us should recollect; in 2009, the MV Maersk Alabama was hijacked off the coast of Somali by pirates. Tom Hanks (with an excellent performance) stars as the titular captain of the ship who takes the reins of the situation, keeping the pirates at bay before being tricked into getting in the escape ship, bound for Somalia. The pirates plan to use Captain Phillips as leverage for a $10 million ransom escalates almost immediately as America, well, gets all ‘Merica on the situation.

Now then, Captain Phillips is a straightforward and characterful movie. It’s also hugely suspenseful, but hardly ground-breaking. Paul Greengrass effectively delves into the story with a nail-biting sense of you-are-really-there intimacy. His dizzying directing is effective during the more tense scenes, but is distracting and disorienting for the remainder of the film. The screenplay is certainly ambitious in its attempt to show the story from multiple perspectives, but ultimately feels a little too diluted, and makes Captain Phillips a little overlong. I still do not understand Billy Ray’s reasoning in showing the background of the pirates.

If Captain Phillips had spent a little more time under the microscope, it could have really been something. Captain Phillips is a perfectly potent, powerful and harrowing, but it’s in the third act (once the Navy gets involved) where this film really comes into its own. It’s here where I got a feel for what an amazing film this could have been, as the excellent acting, deft directing, snappy editing and banging score all rise in unison to a level a brilliance that you rarely see nowadays.

So Captain Phillips is a perfectly adequate biopic with as many flaws as qualities. If I’m honest I wasn’t expecting it be so well put together, but the result is still merely the sum of its parts and doesn’t offer anything of remembrance to the world of cinema. I don’t recommend this movie unless you already wanted so see it. If that makes any sense.

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