Awards SeasonFilmReview

Captain Phillips Does The Biopic Right

Amanda Doughty ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Editor

Hollywood’s latest fad is films based on true stories. There’s a biopic for just about every person who remotely made a mark on history, as well as a retelling of almost every disaster or remotely heroic event. It’s not that these movies are bad- a lot of them are quite good. There are just so many of them. Because these movies are in such high demand, every time something major happens, it seems as though someone starts making a movie about it right away. The latest victim of this is Captain Phillips: a retelling of the 2009 hijacking of the US Maersk Alabama, and one captain’s heroism in the face of imminent danger.

Most people watching this movie will remember the hijacking. It was the top story on every news station in America for a solid week. In fact, it’s a little surprising it even took four years to make this event a movie. After all, we got a Steve Jobs biopic less than two years after his death. But that doesn’t mean this movie is bad. In fact, it’s actually quite good. The action scenes leave you holding your breath in a way similar to last year’s Best Picture winner, Argo. The directing is fantastic. It’s long, but it goes by relatively quickly. It’s just a bit of a let down that, since the events happen so recently, you already know how it’s going to end.

In terms of acting, Tom Hanks- despite sporting a horrendous New England accent- is outstanding. And he’s kind of the only character anyone really cares about. He handles some really difficult material with a grace that only Tom Hanks can, and this is especially pertinent in the final scene of the film. On top of that, it didn’t plead, “Give me an Oscar nomination,” which was refreshing after last year’s Cloud Atlas. It was a genuine, authentic, and spectacular performance. No one else could’ve played this role better.

The shining part of this movie, though, was the way it developed the relationship between Phillips and Muse, the captain of the hijackers. Throughout the movie, there’s a terse dialogue between the two of them that almost verges on playful at times, especially since Muse solely refers to Phillips as “Irish.” From this dialogue, a weird sort of dynamic develops. When they first meet, Muse threatens to kill Phillips just about every time he speaks. But by the end of the film, Muse starts insisting that they don’t kill Phillips, and stops some of his accomplices from doing so multiple times. In fact, Muse even opens up to Phillips a little bit, telling him how it’s his dream to move to America. On the Phillips side of things, he almost becomes a sort of mentor to Muse, telling him on multiple circumstances how to be a “good captain.” It’s to the point where, by the end, you’re not sure if Phillips is crying with relief, or if he’s crying for Muse’s loss of future. There’s a high possibility that it could be both. Overall, the film portrayed Muse and the other pirates like real people, and that gave it a significantly more authentic feel.

As a whole, this movie is fantastic. It portrays what happened accurately and gracefully. It’s not a movie you’re going to rush and see again, mostly because of its horrific content, but it’s definitely worth a trip to the theater.

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