Journal Express, Knoxville, IA

December 26, 2013

Movie Review: Captain Phillips

Steve Woodhouse
Journal-Express

Knoxville — One of the films that has already had wide release, for which producers are seeking awards, is “Captain Phillips.” 

While “Captain Phillips” tells the harrowing story of the 2009 pirate abduction of Captain Richard Phillips, it's not a great movie. Tom Hanks plays the title character very well, but again, he's Tom Hanks. We know the man is talented and can carry a movie. 

It's just that the film doesn't have much to offer beyond Tom Hanks playing a good man facing an extraordinary, difficult situation. We are introduced to the Somali pirates early on, living on nothing and almost forced into the life of crime to survive. Director Paul Greengrass doesn't do himself any favors by telling their story in the native Somali language. It's hard to get to know a character when you're too busy trying to read subtitles. It is for me, anyway. 

When the pirates do speak English, when talking with Phillips, they still come across as one-dimensional. They're the bad guys, just there to move the story along for Tom Hanks, so he can go after his next Oscar. I think it's kind of a wasted opportunity. I don't know if anyone can be sympathetic to pirates, and they really shouldn't be, but filmmaking provides one the opportunity to take some liberty. Add something to the characters that will at least help your audience gain a better understanding of where they are coming from. I just didn't get that from the pirates in this film. 

Hanks, as I said, was great and does carry the film. It is worth watching once, as the audience can better understand the horror, fear and anxiety Phillips went through, as well as the Navy's tactics to try to ensure his safe return. I'd just wait for it to become a rental or watch on cable.