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Written by / 10/14/2013 / No comments / , , , ,

TOM HANKS IN CAPTAIN PHILLIPS

year: 2013 cast: Tom Hanks, Chris Mulkey, Corey Johnson rating: ***
Judging by the excessive use of “shaky cam,” it’s obvious director Paul Greengrass, competing with live news coverage during the 2009 Somalian hijacking of an American-run freighter ship, wanted to make a suspenseful thriller that doesn’t seem anything like a motion picture.

Tom Hanks plays the title character with a sturdy, determined aura, realistic as that perpetually moving lens. Before the emergency situation, Captain Richard Phillips literally runs a tight ship, and, at least according to the film, he’s got a bad feeling after hearing they'll be sailing near Somalian shores without any backup – his unsure expression is warning enough. So, along with the fact this is a highly documented real-life story, it’s no surprise when two ragtag boats, mere specks compared to the gigantic freighter, approach quickly – the first of several involving situations has the crew trying to keep the “remora” from grabbing hold of the ship's side, which would allow the armed pirates entry.

Once on board we meet our antagonist leader up close. Perhaps the most unattractive villain in film history, it’s explained by the fact he’s no actor. Resembling an emaciated anvil-faced llama, half-morphed into a sharpened scythe, "Muse" is an edgy, unpredictable and surprisingly sympathetic foe who builds his own jagged momentum. Instead of taking an easy thirty thousand dollars, Muse – goaded by a more outspoken and lethal henchman – wants a couple million.

The best scenes occur aboard the freighter as the Somalian pirates, along with a poker-faced Phillips, descend into the lower decks to find the missing (or rather, hiding) crew... Then, once the pirates kidnap Philips alone, cramped in a lifeboat resembling a mini submarine, the intensity continues – Hanks wields his reliable chops and, despite some obviously-written dialogue, the spitfire conversations between the good guy and the baddies enhance the contained, claustrophobic, do-or-die atmosphere…

Sporadic alleviation from the Navy Seals aside, the third act, unlike more energetic scenes aboard the big ship, is a prolonged nail-biting experience that you might wish resolved... a lot quicker.
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