A round-up of some what’s been shown to date
Captain Phillips (Paul Greengrass, 2013)
The 57th BFI London Film Festival gets off to a cracking start with the Opening Gala screening of Captain Phillips. Adapted by Billy Ray (Shattered Glass) from the book “A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS, and Dangerous Days at Sea”, by Richard Phillips, telling the story of the hijacking of an American cargo ship; the first to be hijacked in 200 years, Captain Phillips sees Paul Greengrass behind the camera again for the first time since Green Zone in 2010.
Of course, adapting a film from the memoir of your lead character offers you some challenges as a filmmaking team, especially when working in the thriller genre. It’s harder to create suspense when the audience knows that when the ending comes, our main character is getting out of there alive. Greengrass dealt with the opposite problem, so brilliantly in United 93, when he took an ending we all knew all too well, and added swathes of raw, unavoidable human sorrow that made the film almost unbearable, so it should come as no surprise that Captain Phillips has an answer for the problem, by subtly subverting the traditional thriller structure.
That it can do so, so effectively, is largely down to a terrific central performance from Tom Hanks, who has never been better than he is here. It’s such a vanity-free performance from Hanks. Phillips’ heroism is certainly not obvious, nor the type that is traditionally sought out by Hollywood stars. In fact, in Hanks’ hands, Phillips is not a particularly likable character, phlegmatic to a fault, and hard on the men under his command. The majority of his actions are not motivated by a desire to be a hero, and as aspects of his character slip away in front of our eyes, his performance doesn’t waver at all.
He’s ably supported by a cast of mostly unknowns, with Barkhad Abdi as the leader of the skeleton crew of Somali pirates who board the ship, given the most rounded supporting character to work with, and impressing. It’s a tour-de-force performance, though, and in spite of Hanks’ unselfishness as an actor, it’s still almost impossible to take your eyes from him. With any justice, he’ll be a strong contender for an unprecedented third Best Actor Oscar come late February. Ron Swanson Continue reading London Film Festival: Day Three Update