10DoO #3 – Captain Phillips (2013)

by Jaime Grijalba.

You know the concept of “Good Enough”? It applies to practically everything that I can possibly say about this movie, nominated for best picture and little else in this years Oscars. The tremendous elements of this movie only come alive in certain moments, as if they were all dormant volcanos and suddenly they erupt into something that might be among the best stuff you’ve seen in the year, but the lack of that consistency in the greatness of those sudden eruptions is what conditionates this film and avoids it from becoming something more than the just good enough film that it is, and with this I’m not actually saying that the film is bad in any way… it’s not perfect, and it’s not consistently great, but those spectacular moments are worth the entire price ticket alone (just like the one I paid when it was released in theaters in Chile). So, right now what I can do is start numbering the elements, point out the good, the not so good and the spectacular moment in which it erupts, trying to in a way pinpoint to the moments that make this film worthwhile and at the same time trying to achieve the argument that I’m trying to make about this movie, how it needed to erupt every second of every one of these elements, not just in one particular segment. I must say that it’s better if you’ve seen this movie before, because the elements present here might be some sort of spoiler, even if this is based on a real life account and anyone can go look up for it and see the facts for themselves (and see the differences that they’ve had to make for it to become the movie that we see today).

The script of this movie might be the one element of this movie that seems a graph that would always go up… but it would start at the bottom, in zero for the first minutes of the movie, only to slowly build up to something decent and then to receive its moment to erupt. The movie starts with a scene that doesn’t take place in the ocean, where the rest of the movie is set, it’s in a car with Phillips, our protagonist, played by Tom Hanks, talking with his wife, and the things that they say there are among the most obvious “calm before a storm” dialogue that anyone could’ve ever written, and it doesn’t get much better, as that it’s the tone of most of the conversations between the Captain and the rest of the crew, a mixture of faked calm with fake concern for the wellbeing of them in relation to anything, even his own doubted position as a chief of that boat. When the Somalian pirates appear, the movie has achieved some stability when it comes to the script, as it plays around with their presence, the tricks and the hidden elements that they go to be free of them, that elements are well presented, but when the script gets its moment to shine is the way that it sets up and then pays off the moment when the Captain is taken hostage into the safety boat, then the movie can only go up as the relationships between the pirates and with the Captain start becoming more and more heated as the environment becomes reduced and enclosed. The dialogue here becomes a little didactic, but it needs to be, as the english of the captors is basic itself, and the more complex and theorically important conversations are being spoken in a language that I guess most of us don’t understand.

The performance of Tom Hanks has been discussed as not being nominated, but honestly I don’t think it should’ve been nominated at all. It’s not a bad performance, I guess I must repeat myself and say that it was a “good enough” performance, but nothing that would require any awards for it to be recommended any spectacularly. It’s good as Hanks manages to play cool, calm and scared at the same time when he seems that he doesn’t have the control of the situation, and he plays it in an acceptable way, he doesn’t shine on it… until he erupts, right at the end, where the pirates find their demise and his shock combined with the sickness of his mind and body would find a way of breaking through any way of acting and become something trascendent, the way that his stiff arms are moved around, his body twitches and his voice seems to crack and move with every movement and realization that he makes, the line “that’s not my blood” might be the best moment of this movie, and I wished that this film had more like this going for it, so it could become one of the great movies nominated for Best Picture this year, but I guess this is, again, good enough. The rest of the cast does an Ok job, there are some small performers who over-act, but those are forgiven by the small performances of the Somalian pirates, who find themselves in a quiet way to infuse fear and redundant spacial dominance, and when  it comes to Abid, I must say that I find him good and great at spots, but there are moments when he’s loosing it, the moment where his performance erupts, that he’s nothing short of genius in the way that he’s talking nonsense.

The direction and the cinematography are correct all the way through, becoming serviceable to the story, the tension and the realism, but it achieves a pinacle when the pirates are starting to attack the big cargo ship, where the spikes of water that come out become beams of light that cross the screen in a very beautiful way, also the shots taken from the air, and the way that the editing cuts from the boat of the pirates to the big ship, the confrontation is classical and maybe metaphorical of something more powerful, about how the great corporations might be large compared to the small countries, but oh, they are important, and they can do some damage when they come through with a plan. All of that comes through in the direction of those moments, and again, I wished there was more of it in the rest of the movie, but in the meantime we have a recommendable movie, one that I guess anyone can see and find something to like.

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