Friday, October 25, 2013

'Captain Phillips' - (film)

From The Telegraph review.

"Hanks plays to his strengths as an average guy, in this case one in extreme circumstances. We first see him driving from his Vermont home with his wife (Catherine Keener) to catch a flight to the Middle East: his cargo ship leaves from Oman, bound for Mombasa in notoriously dangerous waters. Hanks has the air of a reluctant employee handed a distasteful work project; even before it starts it’s clear he wants it over and done with.

"On board the giant Maersk Alabama, manned by an all- American crew, Hanks curtly orders safety procedures and has them double-checked. His worst fears are confirmed when two small motor boats are observed on his radar, bearing down on the Alabama. It seems implausible that the four armed Somalis on these tiny craft could board the slow, hulking ship, but they do.

Somali pirates take the ship

"The suspense gradually increases during this protracted cat-and-mouse game, but Greengrass has merely established a base level of intensity and ratchets it up as the film progresses.

"Gratifyingly, the four pirates are not sketchily drawn and interchangeable; in the tense stand-off on board, all gradually emerge as rounded characters. But it´s been made clear in a short prologue that they’re all fisherman living on the poverty line. There's no mention of al-Qaida or religion: they're in the piracy game for the money.

"As negotiations between Phillips and the pirates falter, he is kidnapped and taken with them aboard a tiny lifeboat in which they optimistically hope to reach the Somali coast. At this point the diverse might of the US military makes its presence felt.

"The film is based on Phillips's subsequent memoir, so an upbeat ending is never in doubt: but it still subjects its audience to a heart-in-mouth ordeal. Hanks's tearful final scenes, portraying a relieved man in deep shock, are very fine: it’s the most raw, emotional acting he`s ever delivered on screen."

The review is correct: Hanks' performance is never less than absolutely excellent - totally convincing. It's also a taut thriller with plenty of excitement all the way through.

This was our first visit to the Vue cinema at Longwell Green. It's situated in a sprawling, concrete, car-friendly, windswept 'leisure complex' with the usual restaurants and coffee bars. The chinese restaurant initially looked promising (although closed for the afternoon) but a peek inside showed Formica tables and what looked like a ceiling collapse in the centre of the dining room.  Broken glass carpeted the pavement outside the pub and small groups of vaguely-feral youths wandered aimlessly.

A shame as it's potentially quite convenient for us distance-wise: another case where 'edgy' and perhaps 'vibrant' doesn't immediately translate into 'appealing'.