Captain Phillips Blu-ray Review

Welcome back, Tom Hanks, we’ve missed you.  After about 10 years of good performances but mostly forgettable roles, Tom Hanks has returned in one of his most impressive performances yet, this time tackling the true story of Captain Richard Phillips.  Captain Phillips was the captain of the MV Maersk Alabama, the first American cargo ship to be hijacked in over 200 years.  I don’t know how much of this movie is true and to be frank, I don’t care.  If I wanted to learn the real story and understand all the facts, I’d read a book and do research, not sit in front of a movie screen.  True or not, director Paul Greengrass has crafted a brilliant, intense drama about an everyday man in an extraordinary situation.

Weekend box office: Captain Phillips

Not much time is wasted getting to the hijacking as we spend about 20 minutes following Captain Phillips as he says goodbye to his wife, does a quick inspection of the ship and sails out to sea.  But in that short time, we learn how normal Captain Phillips is.  Something as simple as him and his wife having a brief conversation about their son manages to establish the normal baseline so when the coming events take place, the audience knows we’re not watching Superman.  There’s beauty in the simplicity of the opening moments and although we’ll remember Hanks’ performance for the last 10 minutes, it might be the first 10 that were the most important.

Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips

Paul Greengrass is a great director, but sometimes his obsession with the shaky-cam can ruin a film.  After GREEN ZONE, I feared he wouldn’t be able to control himself with CAPTAIN PHILLIPS.  Much to my relief, Greengrass kept the shaky-cam use in check, only utilizing it on a few occasions and only then when it actually made sense for the situation.  CAPTAIN PHILLIPS might be his most impressive directorial effort to date because it showed that he’s gained an understanding of when it’s appropriate to use the shaky-cam and when it’s not.  His style came in handy when the Somali pirates first board the ship and Greengrass’s style made an already intense scene even more impactful.

Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips

Of course, all of the talk of the film centers on Hanks’ performance in the last 15 minutes and I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge it.  It blew me away and in spite of myself, I realized I was tearing up.  Not because the scene was particularly sad, but because the emotions of the movie had finally gotten to me, thanks in large part to the acting ability of Tom Hanks.  Greengrass could have ended the movie a little earlier or had the final scene be Phillips reuniting with his wife, but it wouldn’t have made the same impact.

Captain Phillips

CAPTAIN PHILLIPS is easily one of the best movies of 2013 and it features what might be the best performance of the year, not to mention a great supporting turn from Barkhad Abdi as the lead terrorist.  I remember reading about the event a few years ago, so it’s a credit to Paul Greengrass that he was able to make the movie feel just as intense as if I didn’t know what was going to happen.  Even if you don’t believe everything that transpires on camera, there’s not much to dislike about CAPTAIN PHILLIPS as a movie.  It’s well acted, well directed and one of the more intense experiences at the movies of the year.


Video: CAPTAIN PHILLIPS looks stunning on Blu-ray.  I’m not sure if it’s the “mastered in 4K” process that Sony used, but this is one of the more visually stunning movies on the format.

Audio: We get a fantastic audio track to accompany the beautiful video.

Commentary with Paul Greengrass:  Paul Greengrass gives a film school-worthy commentary track and covers just about everything you wanted to know about the making of the film.  I really enjoyed listening to him talk about a movie that he is so obviously proud of.

Capturing Captain Phillips (58:40): This is a great documentary broken up into three parts: Embarkation, Full Ahead and Stand Fast.  Each one covers a different aspect of the film, with the most interesting being “Full Ahead”, which follows the cast and crew on the ship.  But this also covers some of the controversy in the film, most notably the differences between the movie and the real life events.  It’s probably not enough for some of the naysayers, but this is a great, all encompassing featurette for fans of the film.



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