Captain Phillips

captain-phillips-international-posterIn movies, certain monikers immediately invoke evil. Hannibal Lechter, Freddy Krueger, Chucky – if you hear one of those names screamed out, chances are you’re in for a bloody good time. But some of the worst offenders aren’t even on the screen; they hide behind the grips and the best boys, silently moving among the crew while whispering things to the cinematographer like “You don’t need that tripod” and “Here, have another Red Bull.” They are an elite group of very jittery men, but there is one who quivers above them all: the Voldermort of directors, the one whose name can only be pronounced with a Slytherin-like hiss: Greengraaasssss.

I was excited when I heard there was a new Tom Hanks film coming out. And then I read it was about a ship taken over by Somali pirates and I was a tad apprehensive because movies filmed on water can be problematic if you’re a little prone to motion-sickness. But I made it through Castaway so I thought I could probably get through this one, too. Until I saw the director’s name mentioned in a review and had a sudden flashback of Matt Damon and his extremely shaky search for his supremacy and it all came flooding back: Greeengraaasssss.

His name is Paul Greengrass and if you look him up in IMBD, there will be a small puddle of vomit next to his picture. Director of The Bourne Supremacy and United 93, his choppy editing style and hand-held camerawork have made him a legend among those of us affected by this kind of movie. And not a legend in a good way – more like a chupacabra who runs up and down the aisles of the theatre and laughs and blocks the exit as you try to run out toward the bathroom.

And yet, even with all the bobbing and shaking and jerking— I almost hate to type this— Captain Phillips is a riveting film. As much as I despise the technique he employs, I have to admit that Greengrass knows how to move the camera so that the tension is ramped up to eleven. I was practically vibrating in my seat, unable to sit still as the pirate takeover got out of hand and became a kidnapping. Even knowing the ending didn’t abate the suspense – the film is based on a book written by the real Captain Phillips, so his odds of survival were pretty good. The relationship between the two captains (Hanks and Barkhad Abdi) is fascinating, and the way the ship prepared for a pirate boarding was a study in failed security.

I’m going to throw in a Spoiler Alert here, so stop reading if you haven’t seen the film. The most remarkable part of the movie was after Phillips had been rescued and brought aboard a Navy ship for medical treatment. You rarely see the results of violence in action films – it’s often portrayed as it would be in a video game, with the collateral damage unseen and the psyches of the victims untarnished. But this film showed that Phillips was completely traumatized by what he had gone through, in shock, barely able to speak and stuttering to answer questions posed by the doctors. It’s a raw, honest look at the after effects of violence, and it will probably garner Tom Hanks another Academy Award nomination.

My symptoms were similar to Mr. Hanks after I emerged from the theatre, but no one is handing me any awards for keeping my popcorn down. But at least the damn chupacabra has stopped laughing at me.

Barf Bag rating: FOUR BAGS At this point, I just automatically assign any Paul Greengrass film four bags. I think he would be insulted if I did not.Four Bags