BluRay/DVD Reviews

CAPTAIN PHILLIPS

By • Mar 3rd, 2014 •

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Skull and crossbones flail above billowing sails as the pirate ship thrashes about preying upon Captain Phillips’ helpless vessel along the Horn of Africa intent on ransom and spoils for the Somali overlords. This swashbuckling description is most probably outdated by two centuries. The modern day pirate is less pomp as eye patches and peg legs are unfashionable with a preference for everyday clothing and optional footwear. The targeted is a tanker ship helmed by Captain Phillips. Unlike the captains from ‘The Deadliest Catch’ series, Philips is more like Captain Stubing from ‘The Love Boat.’

Modern piracy poses a threat prompting precautionary measures. From this film, it appears as though no preventive measures exist and that these large ships are reduced to sitting ducks. The size differential creates an image of absurdity – imagine a rowboat with a few armed men and a ladder overtaking The Titanic. Yet, it’s not comedic with Buster Keaton performing stunts of awe. It’s oceanic terrorism. Without any armed defenses such as a simple six shooter or an immediate rapid response from an emergency unit to come to the rescue, the small skiffs mechanically pieced together from junkyard scraps echo history’s tale of the mighty Spanish Armada’s surprising vulnerability.

This maritime drama pits polar opposites against one another.

A diligent captain traversing the globe with a wife at home readying for their offspring’s independence, commanding a commercial liner overseeing a leisurely paced union crew too bothered for protocol with real irritation towards coffee break interruptions.

An exceedingly thin Somali man in a barren flop house, with no options other than appeasing the local outlaws gnawing on home grown khat, determined to commandeer vessels rather than face the consequences of a fruitless voyage, takes charge of a sort of sea fearing militia of desperate, rag-tattered coastal dweller volunteers.

It’s Pirate vs. Captain in a showdown on the high seas.

When the Somali pirates board the vessel, it’s Phillips’ coy tactics that ensure a game of hide and seek with an attempt to appeal to sensibilities without provocation. In a ploy to save the ship and crew, be it a haphazard or a well thought strategic move, Philips is taken hostage aboard the life boat, enduring several days of mental, emotional, and physical strain awaiting military tactical response.

Paul Greengrass’ direction employs verite style shooting where each shot reveals and unfolds the story at hand. Barkhas Abdi’s performance as Muse is sensational resulting in an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. What separates Abdi from the other actors nominated in this category? Unlike Bradley Cooper, Michael Fassbender, Jonah Hill, and Jared Leto, Abdi has never acted before. Perhaps the desperation that he brings to the character of Muse, who may be deserving of empathy or at least an inkling of understanding for the deeds he does, surfaces from his Somali origins. Burdened by gaumless and languorous cohorts, taking command, and finally reaching a point of no return, Abdi never falls nor does he over-reach. He pulled off the nearly impossible by holding his own against a seasoned lead.

A surge of emotion or a subdued countenance, Tom Hanks crafted a multi-layered character. What can be said for the back-to-back Oscar winner who gained fame by playing both brother and sister in the television series, BOSOM BUDDIES? Hanks’ traumatic finale to this emotional ride exemplifies his talent.

Abduwali Muse is currently serving more than thirty-three years in a United States prison. Unlike the cowardly Captain Francesco Schettino of the wrecked Costa Concordia off the coast of Isola del Giglio, Italy who abandoned ship, Captain Phillips did not wave a white flag, was taken hostage and survived, eventually returning to duty. The crew of the Maersk Alabama arrived at its destination and nine crew members have filed a suit claiming that they were sent into the water without adequate protection.

Regardless of fact vs. fiction, the story of Captain Phillips is a fantastic voyage.

A verse from Walt Whitman’s poem, Leaves of Grass:

Token of all brave captains, and all intrepid sailors and mates,
And all that went down doing their duty;
Reminiscent of them ‘twined from all intrepid captains, young or old;
A pennant universal, subtly waving all time, o’er all brave sailors,
All seas, all ships.

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