Captain Phillips - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Captain Phillips Reviews

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Super Reviewer
November 23, 2013
Greengrass proves once again that he can build apprehension and sustain it like few can, even when we have a good idea of where the plot is heading, and Hanks' incredible performance raises it from extremely urgent story to a deeply moving, heartbreaking experience.
Super Reviewer
November 19, 2014
Powerful and intense with excellent acting from all especially Tom Hanks, perhaps the best he's ever been.
Super Reviewer
July 20, 2014
A remarkable performance from Tom Hanks in his middle age since we missed him from his movies from the 90's, too bad the academy didn't appreciate him enough to make the list for Best Actor.. Meanwhile, Barkhad Abdi's performance as Muse got a delightful attention from the critics with 1 BAFTA Awards and an Oscar nomination.. The story itself is quite interesting, but how Paul Greengrass made the movie is another thumbs up since he make not only a great drama but also a thrilling movie that will keep the audiences hold their breath like they been on Phillip's experience.. Overall, 'Captain Phillips' definitely one of the best movies in 2013..
Super Reviewer
February 3, 2014
Believable, straight-ahead, plausible dramatization of the real-life piracy story it's based on; sheer entertainment, but not mindless, with good dynamics between the two "captains." Exciting, enjoyable movie - won't blow you away, but remarkably competent, and the ending is more human and realistic than most comparable (action) movies you've seen.
Super Reviewer
½ May 24, 2014
A cargo ship captain must preserve his and his crew's lives after their ship is hijacked by Somali pirates.
For most of this film, it is a solid, two-and-a-half- to three-star thriller. The action is intense, and the plot moves along quickly. It is in the last moments of the film, especially the phenomenally vulnerable turn by Tom Hanks, that makes this film worth watching.
The film's attempts to humanize the Somali pirates fails - not miserably but fails nonetheless. We get shots of Somali poverty, the Somali social order, and the trailer-publicize line, "Maybe in America," but these moments don't amount to much because by the end of the film, there's no real understanding or human sympathy possible on the part of either the characters or the audience. The Somalis are unquestioned bad guys; director Paul Greengrass might as well have given them red light sabers.
Overall, Hanks's performance is strong and the film is a good addition to the thriller genre.
Super Reviewer
March 21, 2014
A thrilling movie with themes of heroism, humanity and survival. Fantastic performances all around -- but I gotta say, I love Tom Hanks. Brilliant.
Super Reviewer
½ October 7, 2013
Captain Phillips is a gripping and emotionally gut-wrenching biopic with an excellent central performance from Tom Hanks. The supporting cast is also fantastic, crafting memorable characters. The only problem I had is that the story is a little bit too long and drags at times trying to get you so invested into these characters and their fates. It starts off fantastic with some great suspense when the Somali pirates are attacking and hijacking the ship, but after those events I wasn't as into it until much later on. The final moments with Tom Hanks are absolutely powerful though and some of the best acting I have seen in a long time. This isn't a fantastic film, but rather a solid one with fantastic performances elevating the material. Paul Greengrass has shown he is a good director, but a little bit of the fat could have been trimmed here.
Super Reviewer
½ May 9, 2013
Has its moments, but it's not a movie I'll need to see more than once. The intensity ramps up quickly and keeps things interesting, but it drags at the end as they rely on pretty much the same plot points over and over.
Super Reviewer
½ January 28, 2014
It's surprising that such a big ship company doesn't care enough for security, all the more when it's route involves piracy zone. Besides, it was funny to see Hanks igniting and shooting the flairs in the direction of the skiff, only to miss every shot. And why didn't he care to shoot one right when they were below the boat preparing to climb through ladder. Anyways, it was entertaining. Just that I was expecting an action thriller biopic, but instead got to view a comedy-of-errors sort of movie. Tom Hanks performs eerily and the character Muse is a bit funny. The hide and seek in the boat also adds to the entertainment.
Super Reviewer
½ August 7, 2013
Paul Greengrass once again compiles a successful biopic in Captain Philips. The film is riveting and fervent. Its compelling direction and performance from Tom Hanks adds on to make this a dramatic and overwhelming picture. 4.5/5
Super Reviewer
½ October 14, 2013
One of the ten best pictures of 2013, hands down. A pulse-racing action-thriller that delivers full on thrills, excitement and spectacular tension. It literally takes you through every intense and throat tightening moment of this incredible true story and leaves you breathless. Director, Paul Greengrass crafts his finest and most thrilling piece of work yet, he knows how to put his audience in the situation and makes you feel every bit of whats happening. A blistering masterwork of the highest caliber. Tom Hanks gives one of the greatest performances of his career, his work is strong, compelling and unforgettable. Hanks proves yet again why he is one of Hollywood's best actors. Hank's performance carries the movie and will have you engaged for the whole two hours. Barkhad Abdi gives a strong and terrific breakthrough performance. Abdi is a genuine surprise. This in one fantastic and riveting movie. It grabs you with its power and does not let go until the very last scene. The last twenty minutes of this film are of the most intense and emotional moments in any film this year. An engaging and breathtaking real-life drama.
Super Reviewer
January 12, 2014
"Captain Phillips" is the true story of a 2009 pirate hijacking of a U.S. container ship by a group of Somali pirates. Tom Hanks stars as Captain Phillips and gives his best performance since "Forrest Gump". 2013 was Hank's year between this and "Saving Mr. Banks" the man is on a roll! Paul Greengrass continues to be one of the most unique action directors working. He did 2 of the "Bourne" movies and he directs this with the same realistic perspective. The supporting cast all do great, Barkhad Abdi is even getting award nominations for supporting actor. He does terrific, but I think the recognition is a little overrated. This movie is very tense and if you don't know the story(I knew some of it, but not specifics) it's very suspenseful. It does run about 20 minutes too long at 2 hours and 14 minutes long. But its not boring or drags by any stretch. I don't think this would have made my 10 ten of 2013, but it's still a great movie. Check it out! Oh two more things, 1 this has a lot of subtitles and 2, SPOILER ALERT! It's always cool to see something about Terre Haute(where I live) in a movie.
Super Reviewer
½ December 15, 2013
Aside from the awkward opening sequence, the film is quite strong, with great performances and excellent pacing. the subject matter is a bit straight forward and would never really inspire over excitement or multiple viewings, but it was a very good film.
Super Reviewer
November 28, 2013
The film's much discussed and likely inaccuracies aside, when it comes to the portrayal of real occurancs of recent history, it doesn't get much better than this. The direction, the script, the acting all work in favor of a realistic, sobering and terrifying retelling of events. Tom Hanks delivers one of his strongest performances of the last 15 years as regular man getting thrown into events beyond his own control. Especially the last couple of scenes stay with you for a very long time. Sure, the showdown feels a bit like a Navy Seals recruitment video, but even that doesn't take anything away from the film's power and desperate atmosphere. It's the only part that feels even remotely hollywoodized anyway, the rest is as gritty and unpleasant as you imagine the hijacking of a freighter ship to be. Much praise has to go to the amateur actors in the Somali roles too. Not only do they give their characters a threatening face, they also look beyond the veil and ask for the reasons behind such desperate measures.
Super Reviewer
November 22, 2013
One of the films of the year. One of the films of any year. Full review later.
Daniel Mumby
Super Reviewer
½ October 28, 2013
Through no real fault of his own, Paul Greengrass has become a victim of his own success. His work on the Bourne series has been so widely and often poorly copied that the public's perception of the genuine article has been damaged without the film-maker in question putting a foot wrong. Green Zone could and should have been a really big hit, but audiences stayed away because of bad experiences with 'shaky cam' on Taken and elsewhere.

Now, three years after Green Zone failed to find an audience, Greengrass is back in full force with Captain Phillips, a film that contains all the aspects of his style and approach to film-making which make him so special as a director. Greengrass' unique aesthetic is perfectly suited to the tense and fascinating story, and he is aided brilliantly by one of Tom Hanks' very best performances. Ambitious in intention and near-watertight in execution, it is one of the best films of the year.

In my review of Taken, I argued that the problem with 'shaky cam' was not so much the aesthetic in itself but that many directors didn't understand the motivations for using it. In Pierre Morel's film the effect is jarring because the action is so artificial and tightly choreographed: the film is using it as a gimmick to make something generic appear more spontaneous and realistic, but it only succeeds in confusing the audience and making the film look like a cheap imitation.

While Morel and his counterparts are trying to apply documentary techniques to the taut choreography of genre film-making, Greengrass is at heart a documentarian who is interested in human drama. He goes to great pains to capture a story as it is happening, imagining his film crew are reacting to events as they transpire, with no time to plot out how a given shot may move or how long it may last. The aesthetic puts the audience right in the midst of the action, and by extension in the minds of the characters, as we respond to the events in real time just as they do. When it works, as here and in his other films, you get a film which is professional but also visceral, with a spontaneity that few Hollywood thrillers achieve.

That's not to say, however, that Captain Phillips is dependent on its aesthetic to tell its story. The build-up of the film is very slow and steady, in which the camera movements are more relaxed and Greengrass' choice of angles more deliberate and judicious. Our introduction to Tom Hanks' character doesn't have the glamour of the introduction we might get to him if the film were being helmed by Stephen Spielberg or Ron Howard. But neither does Greengrass over-egg the realism by thrusting it down our throats: both the introduction to the title character and the first scenes with the Somalis are just allowed to unfold and are captured in an unfussy, low-key way.

This opening is ultimately very fitting in light of the intensity that follows once both parties are on the open sea. It creates - if you'll pardon the pun - a calm before the storm, a sense of normality which puts our characters' travails in context. It makes it feel like a drama instead of a gung-ho Hollywood action-thriller, which a cold opening on the piracy may have implied. The normalities facing our two main characters are very different in terms of status and security, but they do have a common characteristic. Both men are worried about their work and the future, about being able to stay ahead in a world that's moving so fast and seemingly against their favour.

Captain Phillips is a film that's interested in globalisation on many levels. It explores the ruthless, sink-or-swim mentality of modern capitalism, in which money and resources are the prime motivations and human life is negotiable in the face of material gain. Both Muse and Phillips are under immense pressure on a scale of supply and demand: Muse must bring back bounty for his masters, while Phillips must keep to a tight schedule to deliver valuable commodities along the coast. Both are participants in a larger game which dehumanises them, the only difference being that Muse's bosses are more direct in telling him that he is expendable.

The film also explores how power is distributed in our modern economy, specifically the way in which globalisation has distanced, deferred or obscured power. Neither captain is ever fully in charge of the ships they command: they are dependent on the people below them to obey, but also answer to higher, more amorphous forms of power in the form of their distant superiors. In a world governed so unconditionally by the laws of supply and demand, national borders are increasingly irrelevant, and where there is confusion over who holds power or where such power lies, anarchy (such as in piracy) can gain a foothold.

While Greengrass doesn't offer a grand ideological alternative for this economic system, he is keen to point out and spark discussion about its more inadequate aspects or consequences. When Phillips first reports the skiffs approaching the Maersk Alabama, the international authority asks him to prepare his hoses and follow lock-down procedures - to which Phillips replies: "Is that it?". Greengrass is making a point about the efficacy of international co-operation, something which is both unhelpful in preventing the initial attack and paramount to rescuing Phillips. It may be the US Navy who eventually diffuse the situation, but the UK MTO provides the intelligence needed for the operation.

Later in the film, Phillips says to Muse: "There's got to be something other than being a fisherman or kidnapping people"; Muse responds: "Maybe in America". There are comments throughout the film about the rich nations of the world using their might to reap the resources of the developing world, and the lack of accountability they have from the system being built in their favour. Greengrass is certainly critical of the inequality of life that capitalism generates, and the extremes to which seemingly normally people are being driven.

Even if you don't take an interest in its nuanced political discussions, Captain Phillips is still a brilliantly tense thriller, which holds its nerve right to the very last frame. Christopher Rouse, who won an Oscar for The Bourne Ultimatum, edits the film with a ruthless intensity, refusing to let a single shot go on any longer than is necessary, and thereby sustaining the breathless pace we reach when the ship is boarded. Henry Jackman's score is subtle and unobtrusive, always underscoring the mood of a given scene rather than telling the audience how they should feel.

The plot of Captain Phillips is one that will keep you guessing, and like any good Hitchcock thriller it makes the best use of all the props available in a given setting. The frequency with which power shifts or changes hands, particularly in the claustrophobic lifeboat scenes, serve to deeply unsettle us, so that even the tiniest movement or request for water can seem like an act of great violence or aggression. The rescue mission is very well-orchestrated, with Greengrass keeping the human story at the centre in amongst all the military jargon and hand signals. In short, this is the film that Zero Dark Thirty should have been for more than just its last 20 minutes.

Alongside its technical brilliance, the film is served by two fantastic central performances. Tom Hanks is great as the titular Captain, allowing his bright, trustworthy reputation to pull us in and then creating a character of great guile and several surprises. The final sequence is as emotional as anything Hanks achieved in Cast Away, and it could just be his best all-round performance since The Green Mile. Equally good, however, is Barkhad Abdi, who leaves a lasting impression as the pirate captain Muse. While calling him the villain of the film is overly simplistic, it is a deeply intimidating performance, and as good a film debut as you are ever likely to see.

Captain Phillips is a brilliantly tense and intelligent thriller which handles its meaty and complex subject matter with all the aplomb we have come to expect from Greengrass. While not quite as immaculate or as exhilarating as The Bourne Ultimatum, it is desperately hard to fault it on both intention and execution, from its main cast to the tiniest technical detail. In short, it is one of the best films of the year, from one of the truly great directors of our age.
Super Reviewer
September 26, 2013
I went reluctantly. I was not excited. But this was really good. Tense, well-paced, great performances. Consider me impressed.
Super Reviewer
October 9, 2013
Paul Greengrass really is a master at creating urgent, ground-level action pictures of startling authenticity, and "Captain Phillips," might just be the best example of his craft to date. All historical inaccuracies aside, this is an intense thriller, sometimes unbearably so, though even that seems like a gross understatement. I don't use this term lightly, but "Captain Phillips" is truly an edge of your seat experience. After the first half hour it's relentless, exhausting, and ultimately exhilarating, but not in the usual "Hollywood backlot pyro" sort of way. Greengrass evokes not movie tropes, but a real sense of life unfolding... and I was riveted. The scene in which the key Somali pirates lay siege to Phillips' cargo ship is a text book example of how to capture an imposing threat on film and how to build tension until the worst case scenario plays out. We know the outcome yet the extended sequence is still a visceral gut punch. Director Greengrass' "shaky-cam" trademark was put to good use; frequently working as an immersive tool and only rarely making me queezy. The sensory assault only giving in when Captain Phillips finds himself taken hostage on an life boat; a sequence that dragged too long and became repetitive until the explosive finale. The last twenty minutes or so are incredible. The bitter end to the naval stand-off is brutally efficient, perfectly directed, with an emotional climax of uncommon power. This is the perfect destination for one of the best performances of Tom Hanks' career. He's not the unequivocal hero. He's flawed, he's human. Pushed to the breaking point Phillips is a vessel for yet another revelatory turn from Hanks. The film itself is not interested in hero worship, one sided politics, or anything else that could isolate an audience. It's a tale very much human and exciting, and certainly one of the most impressive pieces of filmmaking this year.
Super Reviewer
November 4, 2013
It wasn't as good as I expected, but I may have been expecting too much. This is a solid biopic with good performances from Hanks and Abdi, who make the events of the story feel real. I also credit Greengrass for his directing. In the end, however, the story was a bit anticlimactic. The suspense and fine performances are all present, and they make for a good movie. But this should have been a great movie, and it just wasn't.
Super Reviewer
October 7, 2013
Dragged on too long. Some redundant scenes. Oversold 'Murica. Great character dynamic between the two leads. Some of the roles annoyed me a bit. Most other aspects were okay but nothing phenomenal to make up for the aspects that were lacking.
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