CAPTAIN PHILLIPS, A Movie Review
January 26th, 2014
by Harry Caul
The true story of Captain Richard Phillips and the 2009 hijacking by Somali pirates of him and his boat has been widely acclaimed by virtually every movie critic; and honestly, I looked and couldn't find one that's gonna be as negative as I am about to be.
I mean no disrespect, but I just saw this train wreck of a story for the first time this weekend. Why so long? Doesn't matter... But deep down I knew, I just knew I'd hate it. Just like I hated CAST AWAY... and it's not because of Tom Hanks. I love his acting. I hated CAST AWAY for lots of reasons: no real antagonist, a story about a guy on island doesn't work, it was boring, mundane, predictable... oh did I mention it was about a guy trapped on a secluded island all by himself!
Anyway, the predictability of CAST AWAY is a lot like the predictability of CAPTAIN PHILLIPS. But predictability isn't totally why both movies don't work for me. Once again, they don't work for me. I might be crazy. It's the story that doesn't work, the setup and payoffs aren't there for me... there are none as a matter of fact. I know I'm on an island (pun intended) here as everyone but me loved Captain Phillips... I'm here to say no they didn't, they loved Tom Hanks. He's why the movie worked for everybody. They let go of everything rational about what is a good narrative because Tom Hanks is an acting icon and we all love him (and yes the character of Captain Phillips is so incredibly brave.)
The only way CAPTAIN PHILLIPS gets made into a movie is because its based on a true story that everyone remembers. Written as a fictional spec and I believe no one buys this story let alone makes this movie. The actions of Phillips and the Crew are questionable at times in my humble opinion. Logically and narratively, it doesn't work as fiction. I know, blasphemy, it's a true freaking story how can you say that!? (I'll say something similar when I get to my review of LONE SURVIVOR.)
When the four skinny ship-jackers (a.k.a. Somali pirates) get on my boat I am handing them the keys, taking my crew to the life boat, and getting the hell off. I might even get my men on the boat before the pirates get up to the cabin. I know it was "procedure" to run and hide in the engine room, but c'mon. I know, wouldn't have been the honorable and brave thing to do to leave and then there is no story... no movie. That's exactly my point. So I agree with the guy in the lounge who told Captain Phillips he didn't sign up for taking on Somali pirates, Amen brotha!
The crew wasn't proactive was also a problem for me. They hid in the freaking engine room (as instructed by Captain Phillips.) Why the engine room? That's the one place I'd go if the engines stopped working suddenly if I were a pirate! Note to Shipping companies: make a Panic Room (remember the movie?) for your crew. Make it one of those big ass canisters you have on your ship, the pirates would never find them; they'd spend all their time in the engine room apparently!
When the crew did act they overpowered the Somali leader and took his gun... way to go guys, but why didn't you do this earlier? I know easier for me to say I wasn't there... it's a true story, remember! So what I am judging this as if I were reading a script and if I was I'd have some questions about the logic of the narrative. Just saying. The Somali's were stupid, they divided themselves up (remember there are only four, this too would trouble me) and would have been targets for the taking. I will say this, the title of the movie is right, because Captain Phillips did all the risk taking.
The skinnys ... ah Pirates, what was their plan? They really thought they were going to kidnap the captain of a major American shipping company and the Navy wouldn't get involved!? Thirty thousand wasn't enough for these beggars!? I don't know, the logic was missed by me. I understand their warped logic was part of the story, but still.
Captain Phillips as portrayed by Hanks was a tremendously heroic person. However, he was also a hard character to understand for me from the get go. The opening scene with him and his wife, what is that? A bizarre conversation on the way to the airport that served no true purpose. There was some tension between them but its never explained or brought up again. Why? Who cares! Get me on the Goddamn boat and the pirates. That opening didn't establish anything and it was just a waste of time.
Yes, I loved Tom Hanks and the character of Captain Phillips, a true hero. You want a guy like that to live... but it also robbed the story of any real tension (especially when Hanks is taken) in my opinion. So overall the story just did not work for me as I would have liked. Period. Like it or not I don't care.
About the Author
I am a professional screenwriter with some years of experience, but I'm gonna say some shit on here that might piss some people off so I am the Mystery Screenwriter.