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The UnPopular Opinion: Captain Phillips

07.02.2015

THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!

****SOME SPOILERS ENSUE****

As we near Independence Day here in the United States, we often reflect on films about American heroes who survived against all costs. There are numerous films about such individuals, several of whom have been played by Tom Hanks. From SAVING PRIVATE RYAN to PHILADELPHIA, Hanks has portrayed characters who represent the best in who we are as people and unites us as viewers. With Hanks circling the Clint Eastwood film about the Miracle on the Hudson, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on a similar role in the true story film CAPTAIN PHILLIPS.

Let me make sure I start this out clearly and say that despite all of the laurels tossed at it, CAPTAIN PHILLIPS is not a great movie. It is barely tolerable as a film and is depressingly one note in it's execution. Coming from director Paul Greengrass, I expected a lot more out of this movie. Instead of a powerful tale about Somali pirates and the rescue of Phillips, the movie is instead a bundle of shaky camera shots and one powerful scene. To consider all of this an Oscar caliber film is an insult to movie audiences everywhere.

The existence of pirates off the coast of Somalia has been a common news topic for years. When the events of CAPTAIN PHILLIPS took place, the news was in regular rotation around the globe as the stand-off was both dramatic and the rescue thrilling. There have been several books written about this particular hijacking, including one by Phillips himself. Where the film goes wrong is in focusing solely on Phillips ordeal and ignoring the myriad of plot threads outside of the ship. In fact, every character aside from Phillips and his captor, Abduwali Muse, feels like a cardboard cutout put in place to keep the movie from feeling like a two-man stage play set on a ship.

While screenwriter Billy Ray wrote the film, I place the hefty amount of blame on Greengrass. Best known for THE BOURNE SUPREMACY and THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM, Greengrass has directed three films based on true stories. The fictionalized thriller GREEN ZONE is a great example of telling a tale rooted in truth while BLOODY SUNDAY is a masterful drama about a terrible chapter in Irish history. But, it is his 9/11 film UNITED 93 that should have served as a template for CAPTAIN PHILLIPS. Set primarily on the tragic flight that crashed in Pennsylvania thanks to the heroic efforts of those aboard the plane. What made that film work was the balance of events both on and off the hijacked plane to give a more rounded view of what transpired. CAPTAIN PHILLIPS feels rooted in Phillips' own experiences rather than outside of it as well.

I have a problem with Greengrass' visual style to begin with as his reliance on handheld, verite filmmaking can often obscure what is happening on screen. With CAPTAIN PHILLIPS already set on seacraft, the additional shaking of the camera makes it almost impossible to pay attention through the film. At over 130 minutes, it becomes tedious to watch the same scenes play out over and over again. Greengrass' focus on Hanks and Barkhad Abdi does make for some genuinely powerful moments on screen, but when the camera follows the other crew-members or hijackers, it almost feels obligatory until he can pan back to his two stars. A better title for this film would have been PHILLIPS AND MUSE as that is pretty much what this movie amounts to.

Hanks and Abdi were both nominated for Academy Awards for their roles in CAPTAIN PHILLIPS with, in my opinion, only Abdi being deserving. Without any other screen credits prior to this film, Abdi almost feels like he is translating his real life experiences growing up in Somalia and how his countrymen involved in pirating felt and lived. Hanks, on the other hand, could have done so much more. The problem is that Phillips is just not a very interesting person. You could argue that the normalcy of Phillips in an extraordinary situation is what makes him interesting, but casting someone as talented and high profile as Tom Hanks pulls away from what Phillips endured. You keep waiting for him to do something, but he just ends up stammering and doing his job. The crux of Hanks' performance comes down to his final scene in the film after being rescued. It is in that moment and that moment only that Hanks truly earns his recognition for his role. But, one scene does not a movie make.

While the stakes are different, Kathryn Bigelow's ZERO DARK THIRTY is a much more powerful and well-made portrait of characters involved in a real life military operation. Greengrass executes the closing SEAL rescue with panache and an eye for action, but the build-up in the preceding two hours is just not there. While there is definitely a story to be told about Somalia and the plague of pirates on the shores of that country, this was not the tale worth telling. CAPTAIN PHILLIPS is a bland and generic film that suffers from a reliance on flag-waving movie audiences who can overlook a vanilla film because of the powerful ending. I expected a lot more out of everyone involved in this film and look forward to someone telling a similar story in a much better way.

Oh, and if you have any suggestions for The UnPopular Opinion I’m always happy to hear them. You can send along an email to alexmaidy@joblo.com, spell it out below, slap it up on my wall in Movie Fan Central, or send me a private message via Movie Fan Central. Provide me with as many movie suggestions as you like, with any reasoning you'd care to share, and if I agree then you may one day see it featured in this very column!

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Source: JoBlo.com

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5:57PM on 07/02/2015
Are you kidding me, this movie was excellent & very tense at times.
Are you kidding me, this movie was excellent & very tense at times.
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5:18PM on 07/02/2015
This was, I thought, a very taut thriller. Not a Best Picture, but a riveting movie that would've felt at home in the 1970s. Aside from a rather ham-fisted introduction to Richard Phillips and his wife (and a wasted turn by Catherine Keener), everything after worked marvelously.

While Abdi handily stole the show (and I hope he doesn't turn into a Hollywood fluke), Hanks' breakdown at the very end was one of the most amazing things I've seen the actor do since Cast Away, a reminder of why he
This was, I thought, a very taut thriller. Not a Best Picture, but a riveting movie that would've felt at home in the 1970s. Aside from a rather ham-fisted introduction to Richard Phillips and his wife (and a wasted turn by Catherine Keener), everything after worked marvelously.

While Abdi handily stole the show (and I hope he doesn't turn into a Hollywood fluke), Hanks' breakdown at the very end was one of the most amazing things I've seen the actor do since Cast Away, a reminder of why he is such a highly regarded actor. And a diversion from the Tom [link] that he often personifies in his movies.
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+0
3:28PM on 07/02/2015
Still haven't seen it, and will NEVER see it. Why? Greengrass. Hate 'em. I hate shaky-cam. Period. End of story.
Still haven't seen it, and will NEVER see it. Why? Greengrass. Hate 'em. I hate shaky-cam. Period. End of story.
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5:58PM on 07/02/2015
This movie hardly has any shaky cam scenes surprisingly.
This movie hardly has any shaky cam scenes surprisingly.
3:17PM on 07/02/2015

While I did enjoy the movie...

it was not worthy of a Best Picture nomination.
it was not worthy of a Best Picture nomination.
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2:18PM on 07/02/2015

Another article proving once and again

that Alex Maidy should not be writing for this site. Opinions are subjective of course, but his articles are just downright attrocious and he throws out his opinions as FACT. He also throws out "facts" without actually checking if they are correct or not. (see mrscreenaddict for example)
that Alex Maidy should not be writing for this site. Opinions are subjective of course, but his articles are just downright attrocious and he throws out his opinions as FACT. He also throws out "facts" without actually checking if they are correct or not. (see mrscreenaddict for example)
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10:13PM on 07/02/2015
I wholeheartedly agree with this comment.
I wholeheartedly agree with this comment.
1:19PM on 07/02/2015

Fact check much?

"Hanks and Abdi were both nominated for Academy Awards for their roles in CAPTAIN PHILLIPS"
Um, no. No, they weren't. Hanks hasn't been nominated for an Academy Award since 2000's 'Cast Away.' The Best Actor nominees that year were Christian Bale, Bruce Dern, Leonardo DiCaprio, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Matthew McConaughey. No Tom Hanks.
"Hanks and Abdi were both nominated for Academy Awards for their roles in CAPTAIN PHILLIPS"
Um, no. No, they weren't. Hanks hasn't been nominated for an Academy Award since 2000's 'Cast Away.' The Best Actor nominees that year were Christian Bale, Bruce Dern, Leonardo DiCaprio, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Matthew McConaughey. No Tom Hanks.
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+1
12:49PM on 07/02/2015

O-VER-RATED

I agree on almost every point. It was mildly entertaining at best, and save the breakdown of Hanks at the end his performance felt simply adequate to me. A break out performance for Abdi? Well that depends... on what else he does. He might just only play a hijacker believably. I didn't hate it but the hype machine made this what it was, not the content of the film.
I agree on almost every point. It was mildly entertaining at best, and save the breakdown of Hanks at the end his performance felt simply adequate to me. A break out performance for Abdi? Well that depends... on what else he does. He might just only play a hijacker believably. I didn't hate it but the hype machine made this what it was, not the content of the film.
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12:14PM on 07/02/2015

You're kidding right?

captain Philips was a triumph of a film and a break out performance by Abdi.

I wanted this with my family on Blu-Ray and we were all terrifically entertained. It was gripping and useful as a film for not trying to do too much, to fluff it up. It stuck to what happened and delivered. How cool is that, that a big production film can make the story without adding on all the junk and cliches we're used to?

The film got so many accolades and it deserved them. I am not a fan of shaky cam
captain Philips was a triumph of a film and a break out performance by Abdi.

I wanted this with my family on Blu-Ray and we were all terrifically entertained. It was gripping and useful as a film for not trying to do too much, to fluff it up. It stuck to what happened and delivered. How cool is that, that a big production film can make the story without adding on all the junk and cliches we're used to?

The film got so many accolades and it deserved them. I am not a fan of shaky cam either but they were on a SHIP. The pirates are on boats. Yeah the shaky hand held thing worked THIS time because it immersed you.

Overall great film. I want to see it again now. I didn't come out of that experience thinking "gee that was a bit over-rated..." I was thinking "wow, that was realistic as heck, and had me very tense."
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-4
11:50AM on 07/02/2015

5 stars out of 5. Here's why:

[link]

By the way, I thought it was better than SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, PHILADELPHIA, UNITED 93, the BOURNE movies and ZERO DARK THIRTY.
[link]

By the way, I thought it was better than SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, PHILADELPHIA, UNITED 93, the BOURNE movies and ZERO DARK THIRTY.
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11:45AM on 07/02/2015
I would have to agree. While the acting is superb and oscar worthy, the film itself overall is kind of bland and does rely too much on the "shaky-cam". Also, Tom Hanks was NOT nominated for an Oscar that year, however Barkhad Abdi was...
I would have to agree. While the acting is superb and oscar worthy, the film itself overall is kind of bland and does rely too much on the "shaky-cam". Also, Tom Hanks was NOT nominated for an Oscar that year, however Barkhad Abdi was...
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11:40AM on 07/02/2015
I thought it was a really good film.
I thought it was a really good film.
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11:32AM on 07/02/2015
The only real problem that I had with the movie is that it was too long (especially the time on the lifeboat).
The only real problem that I had with the movie is that it was too long (especially the time on the lifeboat).
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11:22AM on 07/02/2015
I think the movie's problem is that it's uneven. At one point, I found the movie very exhilarating but on the other hand it's a very calm sea. But overall it's still a good movie.
I think the movie's problem is that it's uneven. At one point, I found the movie very exhilarating but on the other hand it's a very calm sea. But overall it's still a good movie.
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11:03AM on 07/02/2015
Enjoyed it and wish Hanks would do more edgier roles and films like this one. The man is a great actor, but I find him to be boring most of the time despite his incredible craft.
Enjoyed it and wish Hanks would do more edgier roles and films like this one. The man is a great actor, but I find him to be boring most of the time despite his incredible craft.
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1:01PM on 07/02/2015
Tom Hanks...Boring? lol granted the last 5 years havent been astounding but....wow!!
Tom Hanks...Boring? lol granted the last 5 years havent been astounding but....wow!!
1:06PM on 07/02/2015
I'll give you that.
I'll give you that.
10:57AM on 07/02/2015
I completely agree, I adore the Bourne movies so I was really looking forward to this one. Sadly it is sooooo boring! The ending is great and a few sequences here and there work but it really squeezes the thin plot to death. And Tom Hanks did not get a nomination btw, and I don't think the pirate guy deserved one either. He is very one note throughout the whole thing.
I completely agree, I adore the Bourne movies so I was really looking forward to this one. Sadly it is sooooo boring! The ending is great and a few sequences here and there work but it really squeezes the thin plot to death. And Tom Hanks did not get a nomination btw, and I don't think the pirate guy deserved one either. He is very one note throughout the whole thing.
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10:45AM on 07/02/2015

I'd say this was Greengrass' best film

Staying within the ship and the protagonist is what made the film less manipulative. And the constant, never-ending bashing of handheld has become more of a gaudy fad than the actual use of it that so many people claim is so wrong. If anything, I was stunned by how well the film worked when my expectations for it were that it wasn't even a story that could justify a film.
Staying within the ship and the protagonist is what made the film less manipulative. And the constant, never-ending bashing of handheld has become more of a gaudy fad than the actual use of it that so many people claim is so wrong. If anything, I was stunned by how well the film worked when my expectations for it were that it wasn't even a story that could justify a film.
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10:44AM on 07/02/2015
I personally enjoyed it. I viewed the movie as a global survival tale. Hanks and Abdi are 2 men just trying to eke out an existence anyway they can. Hank's ordeal being captured sort of mirrors what his captors' everyday lives must feel like.
I personally enjoyed it. I viewed the movie as a global survival tale. Hanks and Abdi are 2 men just trying to eke out an existence anyway they can. Hank's ordeal being captured sort of mirrors what his captors' everyday lives must feel like.
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