Thursday, November 7, 2013

'Captian Phillips'--How To Survive When Courage Isn't Enough

Superbly brought to life by the intuitive skills of Tom  Hanks and the commanding performance of Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips gently unfolded its fact based plot that held my attention from the word go, and then refused to ever turn me loose.

In the opening scene, while Richard (Hanks) and Angela (Catherine Keener) Phillips drove to the airport, they discussed troubling concerns for their two children's future.

This typical husband and wife banter appeared a worry that the tough  new world economy that awaited the two might be more than either of the children could handle. Survival was everything, Richard warned, a foreshadowing that would later resound throughout the film..

In a panoramic shot of The Alabama as she  progressed toward the African Horn,  Director Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Ultimatum)  first had Richard leave his family issues on shore, and then board the ship as her captain.  From that moment on, nothing remained typical.

Some distance away  at sea, two opposing forces  had to reckon with one another. And in the end, so much would be at stake that only one of the two forces would remain standing..

If Captain Phillips and his crew could not out-wit their attackers, they were not likely to survive  And as for  their antagonists--Somali pirates bent on hijacking  the ship's cargo-- the interlopers  would  soon discover how inadequate their theretofore ship piracies  had prepared them for this reckoning.

Barkhad Abdi's presence careened on screen with the force of an earthquake, shaking up everything and everyone in his chosen arena. Slight of build and as commanding as a coiled snake; Abdi enlivened his character Muse--the leader of the Somali pirates who boarded The Alabama from a small fisher boat. Muse's first order after the takeover was  to Richard Phillips (Hanks), his  American counterpart.

"Look me in the eye," the thin bodied gun toting Muse demanded, "I'm the captain now."

A well covered fear oozed from Captain Phillips' countenance.  Below deck hearing, The Alabama's crew huddled closer.  Jaws agape in awe, movie goers stopped munching popcorn. Through Muse, Director Paul Greenglass continued a fine-tuned assault on the fears of those onscreen and off.

As in life, we are called often to survive circumstances that appear overwhelmingly impossible, circumstances where no safe exit is apparent, circumstances when all the courage we can muster does not provide a timely enough resolution .Everyone in the theater where I sat knew we were now trapped in such a circumstance. Hope, I decided in the moment. Try everything you can think of, and then keep hoping. 

Hanks' poker face unwavering, Captain Richard Phillips seemed to have heard me.

And that is the source of 'Captain Phillips' everythingIts seldom relenting tension, its unraveling of similarities between equally matched opponents, and its setting  up the movie goer  to experience just how well Billy Ray's compelling screenplay rendered a most  surprising,  and  an entirely satisfying end.

Also not to be missed is Max Martini's performance as the outstanding, no-nonsense authority figure he  created as the Navy commander hoping  to end the pirates' siege of an American ship.

U.S. Navy SEALs soon populated the Navy' response to The Alabama's mayday call.  Protect the world by whatever means necessary has long been the SEAL's credo. In Captain Phillips, these 'human perfections' execute their  Machiavellian commitment,  knowing ALWAYS what to do next.


This  Sony Pictures offering is  superlative cinema that delivers and enthralls just about every movie goer.  Indeed,  'Captain Phillips' is sure  to rack a few Oscars. Executive producer, Kevin Spacey will likely meet Awards Night smiling broadly.

Tell me what you think if you have already seen' Captain Phillips'.  If  you view the film  later, then do return to add your thoughts  to the comment section below.

Oh yes, what do  you NOW think it takes to survive a threat when courage is not enough?


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