Paul Greengrass’ Captain Phillips is a riveting, suspenseful thriller, especially in light of how well-publicized the real-life events portrayed in the film and the eventual outcome are to the general public.
Tom Hanks does his best work in years as Captain Richard Phillips, skipper of the American cargo ship, the MV Maersk Alabama, who has a date with destiny in the form of some relentless Somali pirates off the coast of Somalia. After some early scenes establishing Phillips’ relationship with his concerned wife, his not particularly friendly working relationship with his primarily union crew, and the motivations of the Somali plunderers, the film gets down to business…and what a taut, compelling business it is. The sections onboard the ship, where Phillips and his crew take on the pirates, are about as gripping as these thrillers get. The sequence where the pirates, led by the emaciated, fearsome Muse (the unknown Barkhad Abdi– who is sure to become known), first advance toward the ship and are undone by a combination of skillful stratagems and mechanical issues is a marvel of frantic action and rapid editing. Later when the pirates return (as we all knew they would) and are met with more resistance before finally being able to board, Phillips and the pirates come face to face (with crew safely stowed away—for now) for an extremely riveting game of cat and mouse. Muse and Phillips prod and test each other, with Muse in search of money and hostages, while Phillips (as well as his crew) tries every evasive tactic within reach to safeguard his ship.
Eventually the pace slackens a little when the pirates and Philips are face to face on a cramped lifeboat as various US military forces try to bring about a peaceful (if possible) resolution to a potentially bloody hostage crisis. Still, Hanks and Abdi do some stellar work here, even as the screenplay (by Billy Ray, based on Phillips’ own book) marginally weakens the character of Muse by attributing his actions to other, more predatory individuals. One telling exchange has Muse admit to grabbing millions off an earlier hijacked ship, while Phillips replies “Six million…then why are you here?” The film rebounds though for a nail-biting climax, followed by a surprisingly moving payoff that brings home the emotional toll on its central character. Captain Phillips is a terrific movie—one of the year’s best.
If you haven’t seen Enough Said, then you may want to treat yourself (and perhaps a date) to a charming romantic comedy for grown-ups featuring two remarkably winning performances by Julia Louis-Dreyfus and James Gandolfini. Writer-director Nicole Holofcener ((of Walking and Talking, among others) has crafted a lovely film about a divorced masseuse (Louis-Dreyfus) facing an empty nest (as her college-bound daughter readies herself for departure) who meets a fellow divorced empty-nester (Gandolfini). These two semi-lost souls (Gandolfini in particular is adrift in the aftermath of a scorching break-up) find no small degree of happiness with each other, in spite of some firmly entrenched lifestyle choices. However, since this is a romantic comedy, there are further complications in the form of their respective daughters, as well as a new friend/client of Louis-Dreyfus’ (Catherine Keener) and her own connection with Gandolfini. The movie is satisfying in so many ways: the tentative steps that Gandolfini and Louis-Dreyfus make in advancing their romance; the fear of abandonment, not only on the part of the parents, but also on the part of the children; the fragility of relationships, whether friendly or romantic. Gandolfini and Louis-Dreyfuss are so likable and so endearing despite (or perhaps because of) their individual quirks, that one can’t help but hope for a satisfying resolution.