This morning I was re-reading a nearly three-year-old review of Paul Greengrass‘s Captain Phillips, and I think I said a few things back then that were right on-target. Please review these excerpts and answer two questions — (1) did everyone go just a little too easy on Phillips? and (2) have you re-watched it any time over the last three years?
Excerpt #1: “It does an interesting thing by inserting a slight vein of sympathy or measured compassion by depicting the Somali hijackers as desperate, dirt-poor losers who are entirely outflanked and out of their league when they attempt a takeover of this scale. Because boiled down Phillips is about a team of well-funded, corporate-backed cargo-ship guys supported by the might of the U.S. military vs. four jerkoffs in a motorboat carrying guns.”
Excerpt #2: “Phillips is not quite up to par by the measure of Greengrass’s past works. It’s not as bracing or emotionally affecting as Greengrass’s United 93 or Bloody Sunday, his two previous dramatic recreations of melodramatic real-world events. Nor does it challenge the jolting tone and hardcore immediacy in Zero Dark Thirty, which was/is more gripping and intriguing as far as this sort of thing tends to go.”
Excerpt #3: “It’s not the filmmaking chops, which are always excellent with Greengrass at the helm. It’s not the integrity that clearly went into the making of it. It’s the material — the necessary emotional punch and dramatic juice simply aren’t there. I’m not saying Captain Phillips doesn’t cut it. It does and then some, but only as far as the material and those Greengrass moves allow.”
Excerpt #4: “To me the bottom line is that good as it is, what happens in Captain Phillips is a relatively familiar or at the very least relatively unsurprising hostage situation that ends with the bad guys paying the price. It’s factual and anecdotal, and there’s not much of a theme or river running through it unless you want to count the big corporate guys vs. poor little guys thing.”
Excerpt #5: “What is the theme of Captain Phillips? That being hijacked is highly traumatic? That the East African coast sea lanes are the new Wild West? That decency and compassion and a certain coolness under pressure in the form of Hanks/Phillips is a good thing to have in a hostage situation? Okay.”
Excerpt #6: “I certainly respect the decision to stick to the facts, but that aside there’s no way that any highly paid, corporate-kowtowing screenwriter would have written this story out of whole cloth if he/she had been hired to write a fictional sea-hostage drama. This, to repeat, is what I like about Captain Phillips. I’m just saying that the movie is honorably confined by its commitment to stick to what happened. No embroidery, no sexy flavoring, no Hollywood dialogue.”
Excerpt #7: “To my eyes, Captain Phillips is basically tied with The Green Zone — a decently made Iraq War thriller — as Greengrass’s most muted film. Like that Matt Damon war piece, it’s more about how well it was shot and about Greengrass’s nimble directorial eye than about the ‘interesting but in a limited way’ content or undercurrent.”