Wednesday, 16 April 2014

“Captain Philips” on BLU RAY (February 2014) – A Review Of The 2012 Paul Greengrass Movie…

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"…A Different World…" – Captain Philips on BLU RAY

It’s April 2009 and Captain Richard Philips and his crew of 20 Americans are travelling on their Cargo Ship MAERSK ALABAMA out of Norfolk, VA to Mombasa via Cape Horn. This passage for the 'truck drivers of the ocean' (as he calls them) will see his container-crammed behemoth pass alongside the notorious Somalia coastline where no less than 6 hostage situations have taken place in the past 2 months alone. 

On sophisticated radars in the elevated Control Cabin – two unidentified small power-driven boats are approaching at suspicious speed in broad daylight and not answering radio hails. The Alabama follows routine avoidance techniques – increases speed, turns so they leave a wake the smaller boats can’t handle, radio in what’s happening to the US Coast Guard, turn on the water canons… But these are determined criminals who get alongside with a ladder... And so it begins…

Filmed in Malta and actually using the Alabama’s sister ship MAERSK ALEXANDER - Director Paul Greengrass uses every nook and cranny of his real steel and paint canvas to get to you. He then hires four unknown Somalia actors to be his terrorists (they have stories to tell he says) who are simply sensational in their parts – going for it with a sweaty gusto that would make many trained actors very nervous indeed (Barkhad Abdi as the Leader took the BAFTA). Throw into this captive/hostage emotional cauldron a Director who lives to pump up the tension to unbearable levels - a huge array of truly great lead and support actors - and you’re on a tummy-rumbling cinematic winner.

"Captain Philips" is a superlative stuff – a thriller with brains – the sort of flick they don’t seem to be able to make any more these days. But special mention must be made of TOM HANKS - who in the last ten minutes (when he’s rescued and slowly begins to break down) – puts in a performance that will make your jaw drop open - and realize why he was nominated for an Oscar. He is simply magnificent throughout and filming for 12 weeks in all manner of swells and seasick situations – cannot have been an easy shoot. Yet I’d say with Charlie Wilson’s War, Castaway, Cloud Atlas and this under his belt – he’s fast approaching that rarefied club of the best actors in the entire world. I also like the way the movie goes into the Somalia political backstory – and it’s not sentimental about any of it – just desperate people pushed to desperate measures…

The BLU RAY picture quality varies from fabulous to adequate – which as any fan of Paul Greengrass movies will know is a major step up. I say this because his style is fast and furious and he goes for the moment and the truth rather than the pretty frame. His film “Green Zone” is notorious as one of the worst prints anywhere on BLU RAY (shot at night in a real-time documentary style). But this time efforts have been made to get a picture that looks great – even on the enclosed decks and in the cabins of the huge ship. Once the movie moves away from that to the small yellow boot of plastic that they keep Philips hostage on – it all gets murkier – particularly as it’s mostly shot at night. But this of course rackets up the tension – so you’re enjoying the movie too much to notice the occasional swarm of grain and fuzziness. Captain Philips is a major production and out in the open sea in daylight – it looks BLU RAY gorgeous. Just don’t expect state of the art all of the time.

The Four Audio channels are English, Italian and Spanish 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio – and English Audio Descriptive Track 5.1 Dolby Digital. Subtitles are English, English SDH, Danish, Finnish, Hindi, Italian, Norwegian, Spanish and Swedish.

The two substantial extras are Commentary with Director PAUL GREENGRASS and "Capturing Captain Philips". The 2nd is in several parts and filmed in HD but it will allow you to play all and is nearly an hour long. It features contributions from almost all of the actors, Greengrass, Greg Goodman (Executive Producer), Michael Bronner (Co Producer), the real Captain Richard Philips and his wife Andrea (a conversation they have titles this review), news footage of the hostage crisis at the time, Director of Photography and Principal Cameraman Barry Ackroyd. It’s fantastically detailed and adds a great deal to the viewing.

"Captain Philips" is world-class cinema – telling you a story you probably haven’t heard – doing it with skill and commitment – and featuring actors who can thrill and surprise no matter how well you think you know them.

Take this container load of salty dogs hostage in your home…and real soon.

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