Wednesday, 16 October 2013
REVIEW: CAPTAIN PHILLIPS
134 Minutes. Starring: Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi, Barkhad Abdirahman, Faysal Ahmed, Mahat M. Ali & David Warshofsky. Director: Paul Greengrass.
Saving Captain Hanks. That's what double 'Bourne' sequel director Paul Greengrass is doing here with his film making of the true story of 'Captain Phillips', who was taken hostage by Somali pirates along with his hijacked ship and crew of the Maersk Alabama in the Indian Ocean. The only thing that can match the hard-hitting and haunting account based on real life is the harrowing punch of a performance from it's man on-board. Do you remember after the 'Big' fun eighties, when Tom Hanks was THE man and THE actor of the 90's to the tune of Oscar winning films including 'Philadelphia', 'Forrest Gump', 'Saving Private Ryan' and classics more? Well after showing the new millennium new depths and darks the former blockbuster machine has been 'Larry Crowne' and 'Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close' (both great films however) quiet of late. Still after all the big blockbuster superheroes, reboots and sequels have scorched the red hot cinematic Summer, Hanks is back to own the fall and even rival the Oscar worthy double team of Clooney and Bullock's grounding 'Gravity' with a claustrophobic and humbling tensely taught film in it's own right. It's getting serious now...seriously great. It's a testament to Hanks' star power pull that a bleak subject matter like this can still draw a big crowd in a small town to it's first showing of it's first day on a rainy, windy, midweek early afternoon. From it's fall wind worn, broken basketball hoop and old house to it's truck stop drive to the airport of a terminal apart marriage beginning, this is as raw and real as it gets.
With Greengrass hallmark dense and simply strong shooting this taught trip across dangerous waters is the most terrifying and anxiety inducing films you'll get to the grips of your seat with this year...if not all decade. You won't be able to sit still through this cramped and crafted obliterating ordeal of all strewn senses and evoking emotions. This is as frightening as it gets too with all due respect. There is nothing disrespectfully done here in the diligent nature and handling of this horrific and traumatic real-life experience. There is no Hollywood gloss or shine here in a sobering story that yes, is somewhat shamefully exciting but is more of a lesson on how bad things are in the world today to be learned. Hanks desire to make more 'Saving Private Ryan' films that can be shown in classrooms (albeit censored ones) to aid real-modern world learning is really making an education of this thanks to the man that made Jason Bourne more epic than Bond. Greengrass vision sets sail for February's Academy thanks to a crew of cast members who are all brilliant right down to the support of David Warshofsky on deck. Still it's the Somali pirates who almost loot and steal the show and the master move by the director to not introduce them to the ships cast until the first hijacking scene that plays out in front of the cameras perfectly nervously. These men with no previous acting experience show they can really deliver their roles as well as a shock of life-threatening fear into everyone including the captain of this picture whose eyes and "sure's" see and say it all. Barkhad Abdirahman, Faysal Ahmed and Mahat M. Ali can expect more jobs soon but it's the leader who almost steals the show and the captaincy from our leading man.
"I'm the captain now", Barkhad Abdi tells Hanks as well as the Hollywood kingdom and Oscar world. The Academy would be wise not to ignore his threats. Look at him, with a killer stare and larger than his skinny and scrawny frame threat and personality. Look at him, this man plays the villain perfectly with his own natural charisma and circumstantial sympathetic feel without idolising the bad guy or playing it up like some Hollywood types to achieve a cult classic cinematic bad guy that's todays trend. He plays no games. Besides this is real life and this character is no one to look up to or root for. Still, with that being said the pirates mission is not one of greed but desperation in a kill or be killed nature of work and what he calls "business". The great Abdi captures this all perfectly in conflicting, confusing emotions as his Muse. As he tries to reassure Hanks' "Irish" everything will be alright over and over again, these are not the words of a man mockingly telling lies, but one trying to convince himself that his hostage situation will lead to money and not murder. A man whose emotionally and physically come so far he "can't give up now", Barkhad is the next great actor for films of ravishing realism and terrifying truths. There's more than meets the cold-blooded eyes in this film and story then simply good and bad and that is explored by cast and crew perfectly from the big ship battles to the small-scale boats of claustrophobic tension that will leave you gasping for air and relief. If you thought this years best 'Prisoners' confined you to fears and tears, then wait until you unlock this. There are so many layers and lessons to this movie and it's subject to explore that we haven't even traversed yet which keeps this tough and swaying film afloat and that's its Captain.
Tom Hanks is never anything short of great, even when it looks like he's not trying he produces films that would be amongst other actors most applauded best ('Road To Perdition', 'The Green Mile'), but when he's at his best he's just something else to film making entirely ('Philadelphia', 'Saving Private Ryan'). Here he does exactly that portraying this real life hero perfectly in all his no nonsense protective and emotionally draining desperation from the calm seas to the anxiety tears. This isn't only the best performance of the year, but also not only Hanks' best role in years but possibly one of THE performances of a versatile movie career that can't be matched by anyone in this industry alive right now today. Honest and heartbreaking, the leading man is back to the big and best picture of the year territory he always was on course for. This 'Cast Away' can still storm the isolated seas without 'Wilson' and emerge all character. What's next for the man in his middle-aged maturity looks bigger than that floppy haired boy who turned into a 30 year old man and the best actor of the 90's and possibly all decades and centuries. It's only right this man will be the first to play THE movie-man Walt Disney in 'Saving Mr. Banks', but first can you say "and the winner is", because this Oscar favourite lays it all bare-chested on the table anxious with the relief of a man that's returned home to where he belongs on our movie screens. What's next on the radar for this captain and crew is the recognition they deserve after giving it to a real hero and story that deserves to wake up the ignorant attention of the ills of troubled times. On stranger tides against the pirates Hanks navigates a perfect storm of a performance. Career wise, after hitting the rocks, it's now all smooth sailing from here on out. It's his time and tide once again. TIM DAVID HARVEY.