Captain Phillips

Every day, from now until the weekend of the 2014 Academy Awards, HeyUGuys will be publishing an article championing one of the nine films in contention for the coveted Best Picture Oscar. We will be collecting them all here, where you can find the previous articles.

Paul Greengrass’s tense picaroon thriller isĀ James Thompson‘s choice, and here he makes his case.

It is often the case that among the contenders for the Best Picture at the Annual Academy Awards there are a handful of entries that warrant your backing and truly epitomise the true majesty of cinema. For me, despite yet again playing host to a number of truly inspiring films, this year plays host to just one film that fully deserves the most coveted of all awards; that film is Paul Greengrass’ Captain Phillips.

While Gravity’s out-of-this-world visuals dazzle, Spike Jonze’s Her presents a heartfelt message and 12 Years A Slave forges a hugely affecting true-life tale, Captain Phillips ticks all the boxes in presenting a devastatingly gripping and accurate portrayal of one man’s terrifying ordeal.

At the core of the film is an utterly gripping storyline that many will have heard about on the national news or been drawn to through online media. That is the courageous and frankly frightening ordeal that Captain Richard Phillips found himself at the heart of. Such a story could have been over-glorified or simply given the ‘Hollywood treatment’ in becoming just another action movie based on a true story. This certainly isn’t applied to Paul Greengrass’ modern day classic.

A director who has certainly dabbled in his previous share of real-life tales (Bloody Sunday, United 93), Paul Greengrass possibly had the toughest task of his career in creating such a movie, having the challenge of depicting a man who was a simple captain of a ship thrown into this unbelievable scenario. While having to maintain the audience’s investment in Phillips himself, Greengrass also had to create the atmosphere and growing tension of this scary tale, all without overpowering his viewers with over-the-top moments or lashings of unnecessary violence.

Thankfully, this honourable director was the safe pair of hands a film such as this required, and was helped along by a piece of casting that made the utmost sense. That casting was Tom Hanks in the lead role, a man known as Hollywood’s gentleman and an individual whose audience backing would be through the roof. But Hanks’ reputation alone could not carry such a role, instead his vast experience in the film industry resulting in yet another groundbreaking performance.

In fact, Hanks’ performance contained all the elements of a true hero; his connection with the audience undeniable, this was one man whose every moment of anguish and turmoil was felt by each and every one of us and the sheer emotion upon his face affecting in every way possible. It’s an indicator of Hanks’ execution that there was outcry upon the news that he was not nominated for Best Actor at this year’s Oscars; he really is that good. If you were ever in doubt then you only have to attempt to sit through the profoundly moving final scenes to realise this is one of Tom Hanks’ career highs.

Aside from Hanks, the cast of Captain Phillips consisted of an unknown group of Somalian actors, all whose parts were vital in creating reckless yet formidable villains. Spearheading the charge in the lead supporting role was Barkhad Abdi, immediately stamping his mark and rightfully cementing his place in the nominees category. From his uttering of the words ‘I am your captain now’, to the danger he puts him and others around him in, Abdi’s villain will go down as one of the most memorable in recent years.

With a stunning array of acting talent on show, Captain Phillips is an incredible film that it is so difficult not to find yourself fully invested in, it’s sharp and heightening tension and drama striking a chord with every minute that passes. It’s testament to both the actors’ credentials and the directorial talent that Greengrass possesses that makes this achievement fully credible and at the peak of last year’s films.

Setting up the story and establishing its core characters at a favourable pace, the director soon swoops us into an absolutely subliminal piece of dramatic cinema, whisking us from the originally safe HMS Alabama decks to the dangers of the ocean within the confines of a lifeboat. Cranking up the tension to an almost unbearable level, Greengrass then plays his ace card, with the introduction of the Navy SEALS, only heightening that tension we already full burdened with.

Having slowly built up this incredible level of dread and gripping us with every twist in the tale, the award-winning director hits the crescendo with a simply world-beating finale, both proving he knows drama inside-out and the true emotive impact required to ultimately maintain audience investment. It’s exceptional filmmaking at its best and an unforgettable cinematic experience that is almost untouchable in its level of tension heading into the finale.

Captain Phillips may have missed out on a nomination for its deserved leading star, but take solace in the fact that is among a whole host of wonderful films vying for that coveted Best Picture award. For a film that combines all the best elements of films such as Argo and Zero Dark Thirty, it’s hard not to argue it deserves the top accolade, and hopefully by the end of Oscars night it will get the commendation that it truly does warrant. A truly masterful film packed with tension, drama and human emotion.