Sunday, January 26, 2014

Captain Phillips DVD review; a heart pumping thriller

It's amazing how quickly a real life event can be adapted for the big screen.  Some films relating to World War II, took decades to make their way to the big screen.  However, The Social Network told the story of Facebook, and it's creator Mark Zuckerberg's rise to fame.  It was a just few years between the real life events and the film adaptation.  Captain Phillips is another example of the incredibly quick turnaround time from real life to big screen.  The film tells the true story of Captain Richard Phillips and how his ship was hijacked by Somali pirates in 2009.  It is directed by Paul Greengrass (United 93), and stars Tom Hanks as the titular character.  Let's go!

What I liked about the film:
The Story
As I mentioned above, the film is based on true events.  And what incredible events they were.  You've heard the expression 'you couldn't make this stuff up'?  That's exactly what you see in the movie.  A technologically advanced ship gets hijacked by a motor boat full of Somali pirates?  No way.  Well it's true, and it happened far too often during the time the film takes place.  And sure there is the actually hijacking and what happens to the American Captain and crew; but there's so much more.

It's the contrast in modern America vs. modern Somalia that is most eye opening.  The film showed the villainous pirates as humans.  Humans with their own lives and motives for their actions.  The pirates weren't charactertures, like some James Bond villains.  They had real problems, just like our 'hero'.  I also enjoyed that the movie wasted no time getting right into the thick of it.  The first act revs up instantly, and we get started.  I really enjoyed the story the filmmakers had to tell.

The Acting
Tom Hanks is just great in this movie.  If it wasn't a year crowded with other superb performances, he most definitely would have been recognized by the Academy.  Hanks helped to show the real Captain Phillips' character with his actions on the ship.  Based on what we saw onboard, we knew what type of husband, father, and what type of man the Captain was off the boat.  Hanks plays it so calm and so cool throughout the entire movie.  He makes us believe that the real man had ice pumping through his veins during these incredible events.  In fact; Hanks is so calm and cool throughout the entire movie, it makes his final scene that much more powerful.  Without spoiling anything; Hanks says nothing in the final few minutes he's on screen.  But gives a performance that I can still remember, months after seeing the film in theaters.  Awesome!

It wouldn't be fair to describe the acting in the film without talking about Barkhad Abdi, who plays the primary Somali pirate in the film.  And unlike Hanks, Abdi has been nominated for Oscar, under the Best Actor in a Supporting Role category.  As I mentioned above, the filmmakers did a wonderful job of explaining who Abdi was, what type of man he was, and what his motives were.  I don't want to say too much, because a lot of the suspense in the film is based on Abdi's performance, and our inability to guess what he'll do next.  Great job by this up and coming actor.

The Director
Greengrass is a director who definitely puts his stamp on every movie he makes.  You just know when you're watching one of the Oscar nominated Director's films.  They have a distinct look to them created by his visual style of storytelling.  Captain Phillips is similar to the directors Oscar nominated film, United 93; in that it takes a true story and makes it not only entertaining, but compelling.  He gets our hearts pumping from the beginning of the film, and barely gives us time to breath throughout the film.  Nicely done on all facets of this film.

What I didn't like about the film:
The 2nd Act
This is a nit-pick more than anything.  Screenwriter Billy Ray wrote a terrific script.  But, there is a but...  while the film starts up fast and furious, the second act drags on quite a bit.  And considering the second act is confined to a small space visually (probably on purpose), it was almost claustrophobic watching it.  Again, I would not be surprised if this were entirely on purpose to suck the audience into the events onscreen, but it was a bit much for me.

The Verdict:
A Heart Pumping Thriller
It's actually amazing to me how many people (my friends and family included), didn't know about the real events portrayed in the film.  I knew about the story, in fact, I remember being glued to various news outlets when the story broke.  I was sucked into the drama in 2009, just as I was watching the film in 2013.  In my review for Gravity, I wrote: "There were several scene in which I caught myself holding my breath, until the unrelenting action slowed down; then finally exhaling."  I had a similar experience with this film.  The action grabs you and doesn't let go until it wants to.  I had a great time with this film.  I don't know if it has any replay value, but read below for the Blu-Ray/DVD specs.

The Blu-Ray/DVD Combo:
Just OK
Let me start with a pet peeve of mine; something that all the studios are starting to do that just irks me.  The studios are printing "Mastered in 4K" on new release Blu-Rays.  That's deceiving because it gives you the impression you are buying a Blu-Ray with 4K quality picture... false.  The master print of the film may be in 4K, but it is compressed (essentially downgraded), to 1080p, so it fits on a Blu-Ray disc.  So don't be fooled by this text.  That being said, the special features are slim on the Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack.

There is a Director's Commentary with Paul Greengrass, and a 3 part documentary.  That's it.  The 3 part documentary comes in at just about an hour.  It contains information and interviews about everything from real life piracy to the making of the film.  And truthfully, I don't know if I would watch the movie over and over.  Not because it's a bad movie; but because I've taken the journey now, and don't know if I want to re-live it.  Not anytime soon anyway.  It's like watching Cast Away with Tom Hanks.  I need my Wilson fix every few years, but that's it.  Overall a great film, just not a very good Blu-Ray/DVD release.

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