Bridge of Spies (Movie Review)

Fun fact: Eastern Bloc states were always coloured in various shades of dull, depression-inducing blue.

Before beginning this review, I should point out to any impresionable folks who may read my stuff that when I implied that, at the end of my Deadpool review, I gave that movie a rating of 10/10 because 20th Century Fox paid me to do so, I was totally joking. The rating is the least important part of the review to me, and  I would never compromise my journalistic integrity or whatever by accepting money and other rewards from studios, even studios owned by the benevolent genius that is Rupert Murdoch.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be stuffing the Best Picture ballot box with votes for The Revenant, easily my favourite picture of the year. And after doing so, I will absolutely NOT be taking a ride in my private jet with the FOX logo plastered on its side, accompanied by a harem of hookers and mountains of blow.

That’s ridiculous.

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Oscar Review: Captain Phillips

And now, it’s time for: FILM VILLAINS OF THE LAST HUNDRED YEARS OR SO!…

1900-30: Black people.

1930-50: Nazis!

1950-1990: Russians/Pretty much any foreigner.

1990-2013: Brown people with AK-47’s who don’t worship the same God.

2013: Skinny black people with AK’s.

That’s progress!

Captain Phillips

Directed by: Paul Greengrass

Produced by: Michael De Luca, Dana Brunetti, Scott Rudin

Written by: Billy Ray

Based on: A Captain’s Duty by Richard Phillips and Richard Talty

Genre: Thriller

Starring: Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi

Oscar Nominations: Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing, Best Film Editing, Best Adapted Screenplay (Billy Ray), Best Supporting Actor (Barkhad Abdi), Best Picture

Plot: Captain Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks), a married boat captain from Massachusetts with two grown kids, is tasked with transporting the good ship MV Maersk Alabama, an unarmed container ship, from the Port of Salalah in Oman to Mombasa, Kenya. For those of you who aren’t caught up in your East African geography (It’s literally the only thing I’m good at), the route from Oman to Kenya passes through the Gulf of Aden and round the Horn of Africa, which is dangerously close to….SOMALIA!!!

Cue the theme from Terminator 2.

Meanwhile, in a coastal town in Somalia, a group of pirates led by young Abduwali Muse (Barkhad Abdi) embark on the Somali national pastime/primary means of employment. Hijacking merchant ships and holding them for ransom. Sustaining an economy is hard to do when your country’s dominated by warlords and you have no natural resources.

Muse’s crew comes upon the Maersk Alabama, and immediately smell ransom money and start pursuing it. They catch the Alabama in the middle of a drill and start pursuing it closely. The Alabama evades the attackers for a bit, but are eventually overtaken. Captain Phillips gets most of his crew to safety, but before he and a small percentage of his crew can hide as well, the Somalis board the ship and hold them hostage at gunpoint. The standoff evolves into a highly risky, unpredictable standoff between the intelligent and resourceful captain and the wily and ruthless Muse.

Captain Phillips is based on a true story and, while it may be debatable how much of it is accurate, the movie does a very good job at creating an extremely tense atmosphere, with an excellent soundtrack and a gripping story-line that keeps you guessing the whole time, even if you do know what happened in real life.

It’s not all perfect though. I wasn’t expecting an in-depth analysis into the plight of the Somali people…

We already have one of those.

… But I was hoping that it would go just a little bit more into why the pirates needed to do what they were doing, beyond just a vague scene that involves a warlord ordering them to do it because whatever. It seemed content to just portray the Somalis as villains, with our sympathy/pity for them pretty much a result of Stockholm syndrome.

However, it must be stressed that this movie was never a movie about the unfortunate situation in Somalia, it was about Captain Phillips’ heroic reaction to HIS situation. It still would’ve been nice to get a little more depth from the villains though.

Acting: The two stars of this movie (Hanks and Abdi, bee tee dubs) were both pretty much fantastic. Tom Hanks was unbelievable, as always. He wasn’t nominated for the Oscar for Best Actor, although in all honesty, it would’ve been hard to replace any nominees this year with him. In any other Oscar class though, I would’ve given him a nomination solely for a certain scene at the very end.

The newcomer was, in my opinion the real star of the show though. Barkhad Abdi was, before this movie, a Somali-American a limo driver and DJ. Now, after appearing in his first ever big Hollywood film and being nominated for an Academy Award, I hope he can afford to get his goddamn teeth looked at.

Jeez, poor guy.

In all seriousness, Abdi was fantastic. His performance was menacing and still somewhat sympathetic (Although yeah, Stockholm Syndrome) and was probably the second most menacing villain in 2013 (After Michael Fassbender in 12 Years a Slave). I’m sure this is just the beginning of a promising career. I’m not so sure he won’t be cast as threatening Africans, though.

What Nominations/Wins did it deserve?:

Best Sound Mixing: It definitely deserved the nomination, but it’s hard to top Gravity in this department. 

 Best Sound Editing: Ditto

Best Film Editing: It was good, I guess? I can’t keep this charade up for much longer, you guys.

Best Adapted Screenplay: Yeah, it was pretty damn good, but there is no way in Hell it wins over 12 Years a Slave.

Best Supporting Actor (Abdi): Barkhad Abdi was fantastic (Though not worthy of the win over Jared Leto) but again, I really hope he doesn’t get typecast as “generic African villain”, because that would suck.

Best Picture: While it wasn’t as gripping as, say, Gravity, it was still easily one of my favourite movies of the year. However, its’ minor character flaws bump it down from being a contender on the Oscar ballot to kind of an also-ran compared to the other nominees. This isn’t meant as an insult though. It was pretty fantastic.

Overall Rating: 9/10