Captain Phillips is a Hokey High Seas Drama Apt to Turn Stomachs and Elicit Groans

A Hollywood-style A Hijacking for dummies.

<i>Captain Phillips</i> is a Hokey High Seas Drama Apt to Turn Stomachs and Elicit Groans
Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips.

Paul Greengrass' cinema-of-spasticity reaches new phony lows with Captain Phillips, a based-on-true-life 2008 tale of a cargo ship captain (Tom Hanks) who, while traveling around the horn of Africa, finds his vessel attacked by Somali pirates led by Muse (Barkhad Abdi). From its opening Vermont-set conversation between Phillips and his wife (Catherine Keener), Greengrass' film – written by Billy Ray and based on the real Phillips' memoir– proves itself interested only in flat expository dialogue, with every uttered word chosen to impart vital plot information, character detail, and simplistic First-vs.-Third World commentary. That conversational falseness is matched by the United 93 and The Bourne Identity filmmaker's usual handheld cinematography, which bobs and weaves with a shakiness that aims for you-are-there docu-realism, but too often gets in the way of the drama at hand.

Doggedly cutting or panning away from Hanks to the point that there's little chance for an authentic performance to blossom on-screen, Greengrass' camerawork is so consistently unstable and nauseating [insert obligatory sea-sickness joke here] that it proves not a reflection of its protagonists' anxieties but, instead, merely an affection that undermines its own effectiveness by calling such attention to itself.

That sort of self-sabotage is part and parcel of Captain Phillips, which turns its character dynamics hokey by so bluntly paralleling Phillips and Muse – both presented as committed leaders who assume their missions begrudgingly, and are forced to contend with squabbling (and, in Muse's case, screamy) underlings – and negates its cat-and-mouse tension on the ship, and race-against-time suspense on a life raft, by turning its last act into one long preordained build-up to rah-rah Navy SEAL heroism. It's a Hollywood-style A Hijacking for dummies.

Captain Phillips screens at the New York Film Festival September 27

 
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7 comments
jtsstmith
jtsstmith

The only dummy is the author. This incident happened in 2009 not 2008. Greengrass directed The Bourne Supremacy and the Bourne Ultimatumt not the Bourne identity as claimed. Those two obvious errors were immediately noticeable and just in the first paragraph. Somebody who is going to write such a dismissive review and claim this is a movie for dummies might want to at least get some basic facts correct so as to not look like a fool himself.

Mick
Mick

Another knee-jerk, cartoonish, wannabe Slate-contrarian.  How about you put aside your white, liberal guilt and realize that sometimes the U.S. are the good guys and Africans are the bad guys.  It happens.  I'm sure having your head up your ass is comfortable for you but it confirms why you are stuck writing crappy movie reviews for the Village Voice.

darwinsinclair
darwinsinclair

Haven't seen the Captain Phillips and probably won't, but I loath dialed-in reviews like the one above.  Perhaps it will be helpful to put this critic's opinion into context.

Mr Schager gave positive reviews to the following films:  Rob Zombie's 'Lords of Salem', Resident Evil - Afterlife, Resident Evil - Apocalypse, Transporter 3, You Don't Mess With Zohan, Miami Vice, Silent Hill, Pain & Gain, Lockout, Hop, Taken, Jackass 3-D, Mars Needs Moms, Hall Pass, Jennifer's Body, and The Human Centipede.  

Negative reviews: Animal Kingdom, First Position, Into The Abyss, Crazy Heart, Tyson, An Education, Up in The Air, The King's Speech, The Descendants, The White Ribbon, Downfall, True Grit, United 93, Waltz with Bashir, Tropic Thunder, and Brokeback Mountain.

Interestingly, Nick gave negative reviews to both Kung Fu Panda and Transformers, but positive reviews to Kung Fu Panda 2 and Transformers III - Dark of the Moon.   While he disliked the original Swedish version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Nick loved Fincher's 'Hollywood-style' remake.

eme.bentancur
eme.bentancur

Is this article a joke? I have no idea who Nick Schager is but I'll be damned if I ever read another one of his reviews again. I'm sorry that finding the parallel between a Somali pirate and an American Cargo Ship Captain isn't innovative enough for you, Nick. Surely Greengrass was playing it safe by comparing Tom Hanks and Barkhad Abdirahman and implying that at their core they are both humans. No - what I really should want is more marginalized characters based on stereotypes, right? Genius, utter genius. By the way - the plot actually takes place in 2009. They make it pretty clear in the movie.

dtitus0407
dtitus0407

Ah. The Obligatory being contrary for the sake of trying to still seem "edgy", independent, and relevant Village Voice review. Does any actually read this piece of crap anymore?

perchedeagle
perchedeagle

There are things wrong with this movie, but I don't think you mentioned any of them :)

thirtyeyes
thirtyeyes

Critic must have been texting his publicist instead of paying attention.  Best movie I've seen this year.   Haven't seen Gravity yet, though.

 

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