Bourne director reigns supreme in taut thriller
Thriller/Action. Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi, Barkhad Abdirahman, Catherine Keener, Michael Chernus, David Warshofsky, Yul Vazquez. Director: Paul Greengrass.
Tom Hanks charts a steady course towards a deserved sixth Oscar nomination for his tour-de-force portrayal of an unlikely hero in Paul Greengrass's nerve-racking thriller.
Based on the book A Captain's Duty by Richard Phillips and Stephan Talty, this expertly crafted picture dramatises the true story of an American seaman, whose cargo ship was hijacked by Somali pirates in 2009.
Working from a lean script by Billy Ray, Greengrass demonstrates once again why he is one of the finest directors of nail-biting action. If you thought the Surrey-born filmmaker had peaked with the adrenaline-pumping thrills of The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum, think again. From the moment the Somalia pirates first appear on the radar, Captain Phillips leaves us feeling seasick with tension until the extraordinary final scene that releases all of that pent-up emotion in a torrent of tears.
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Captain Phillips (Hanks) kisses his wife Andrea (Catherine Keener) goodbye and takes charge of his cargo vessel, the Maersk Alabama, bound for Mombasa, Kenya. He is aided by a hard-working international crew including Chief Mate Shane Murphy (Michael Chernus) and Chief Engineer Mike Perry (David Warshofsky).
When pirates are spotted off the stern, Phillips telephones the authorities. "Chances are they're just fisherman," responds a female operator.
"They're not here to fish," retorts the captain with mounting concern.
A tense game of cat and mouse culminates in the pirates boarding the vessel by hooking their makeshift ladder over the side of the boat.
Phillips conceals the crew below deck in the engine room while he takes charge of the situation.
"Nobody get hurt, no al-Qaeda here," promises chief hijacker Muse (Barkhad Abdi) with a sickening smile.
Faced with threats from Muse and his hot-headed compatriot Bilal (Barkhad Abdirahman), Phillips puts himself in harm's way to ensure the safety of every man on board. When the stand-off spirals out of control, the destroyer USS Bainbridge, captained by Frank Castellano (Yul Vazquez), races to the scene.
Phillips realises the gravity of his predicament and the potentially tragic outcome, telling his captors, "They would rather sink this boat than let you get me back to Somalia."
Captain Phillips is one of the year's best films, blessed with a terrific ensemble cast who rise magnificently to the physical challenges. Hanks is flawless – we can see his mind whirring as he engineers distractions to keep the crew safe – and final gut-wrenching scenes wring him, and us, emotionally dry.
Abdi delivers a striking supporting performance, adding depth and complexity to a role that could easily have been a caricature.
The propulsive direction, coupled with Christopher Rouse's hyperkinetic editing and Henry Jackman's heart-pounding orchestral score, leave us scant time to gasp for breath.
Comedy/Romance/Drama. Julia Louis-Dreyfus, James Gandolfini, Catherine Keener, Toni Collette, Ben Falcone, Tavi Gevinson, Phillip Brock, Tracey Fairaway, Eve Hewson. Director: Nicole Holofcener.
The sudden death of actor James Gandolfini in June, three days before he was due to be honoured at an Italian film festival, adds poignancy to Nicole Holofcener's wonderful romantic comedy.
Gandolfini was a formidable talent, winning three Emmy awards and two Golden Globes for his signature role as a conflicted mobster in The Sopranos. He might well be feted, posthumously, for his disarming portrayal of a divorced man on the hunt for second-chance love in Enough Said. Wearing his heart on his character's sleeve in every frame, Gandolfini leaves us in a swoon when he sweetly confesses to his new girlfriend (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), "I kind of adore you already."
Their molten onscreen chemistry induces a giddy smile. Every time they snatch covert glances, when they think the other person isn't looking, we see a twinkle of joy in their eyes. Even their bedroom scenes feel genuine: slightly awkward, tender and underscored with flashes of humour. It's a fitting swansong for an actor, who was unafraid to lay himself emotionally bare for his art.
Massage therapist Eva (Louis-Dreyfus) is separated from her husband Jason (Phillip Brock) but still lives with their beautiful daughter, Ellen (Tracey Fairaway), who is poised to fly the nest and head to college. Impending solitude sends Eva into an emotional whirl and she seeks comfort in the company of her best friend Sarah (Toni Collette), whose marriage to husband Will (Ben Falcone) is beset with the usual gripes and bickering.
They invite Eva to a party where she meets a television archivist called Albert (James Gandolfini). A nervous first date sparks tender romance that promises to blossom into something far deeper. At the same party, Eva woos a new client, a celebrated poet called Marianne (Catherine Keener), who doesn't have a nice word to say about her ex-husband or his bizarre eating habits. Eva realises with a jolt that Marianne's ex-husband Albert is the very same man she is dating. Secretly stuck in the middle between Albert and Marianne, Eva struggles to reveal her coincidental connection to the feuding former spouses, while covertly gathering details about their failed relationship.
Love hurts whether you're an impetuous teenager or old enough to know better.