Captain Phil.

Captain Phillips (Captain Phillips, 2013) was an interesting film that in all honestly took me by surprise. Going in I knew nothing of the film or it’s origin, from it’s first couple of scenes however I thought I had it all summed up.


We are invited, shown, made to look at each part of Captain Phillips life, what I mean by this is the focus is used as always in a mind boggling, disrespectful, linear way.

I found this to my amusement as this was the main reason why my next film is all long take with deep focus.

Shallow focus and snappy editing is used to show us his profession, that he is a family man and that he is a captain. To do this through dialogue and time I guess would be just plain wrong…

It wasn’t until the scene where Phillip is conversing with his wife about their children that I started to feel like maybe there is something here. While talking about how rough it is for American kids to grow up, we are quickly switched to a small village. In doing this the harsh reality is presented with children holding AK-47’s, this is the true meaning of survival of the fittest.


When we enter the ship we are presented with Phillips being a professional, once on the ship he is assertive, in control. Control being a very important aspect to this film. It almost made me feel like the space was mine as much as his, I felt comfortable knowing Captain Phillips was capable.

Once on water it becomes clear that not everything is going to go smoothly, smoothly being the correct term. Once the plan starts being carried out by the pirates we are viciously swayed into steady cam. What was once smooth, controlled shots have now turned into relentless sways on the water.

After an attempt to fight of the opposing pirates they eventually fail. This is the first time that Captain Phillips and Muse meet. From this very scene the film starts drifting away from the linear story of stealing money, to a constant fight for power and control.


Both characters start controlling the situation, Phillips uses every training method he knows when it comes to dealing with the pirates. Muse on the other hand knows when he is being tricked. He belittles Phillips, when he is lying muse makes him look into his eyes. Just as if a parent would do to a child if they were thought to be lying.

Eventually after a hostage taking on both sides we end up with Captain Phillips being tricked and taken away in a rescue boat. The story is so far away from the money its unreal, but I loved this. It was interesting to see the dialogue go forth and back in the tight space.

On a side note I was really impressed with the overall look in regards to lighting. They were looking within a tight space and I felt that the lighting and I suppose camera work really kept the scene interesting and new.



As the story continues it seems that the plan has all but gone, Muse seems to be loosing power of his group, Captain Phillips is not the same man we were introduced to at the beginning, it’s a long drawn out experience within the boat that shows 24 hours of human deterioration. For this I love it, I felt exhausted myself, travelling and feeling rather claustrophobic about the whole idea.

When the driver smashes the window I could almost breathe a little easier.

In this part of a long drawn out experience however I did feel there were some shots that just felt ridiculously out-of-place, although it didn’t disrupt my senses too much, it did become an annoyance. Such as the repeated shot of the helicopter coming and going. Some people didn’t see this as a bad thing but I felt they managed to nail the idea of being surrounded by helicopters and boats through the use of sound. There was no need to keep cutting in and out, I wanted to stay inside, this was where the real power was.


Another shot of the blade under water rotating left me a little confused, to this day I still cannot come to any reasoning on why this has been included. Maybe the special effects artists is a nice guy?

I touched upon sound briefly there and feel the need to continue, I loved it. The gentle taps of the water hitting the side of the boat resonated and gave the ship feeling.

A metal coffin bobbing in the vast ocean.

With this film you really get a sense of size, while the small rescue boat is gently moving along it becomes quickly surrounded by monstrous ships cornering it into a nook. A certain scene I really love is when the passengers are arguing intensely only to be hushed by the low, erupting horn blast of the ship.

A reminder on who is really in charge.

I was deeply worried when I saw US forces gearing up, for some reason America loves watching its boys getting ready to go to work. I on the other hand feel it’s unnecessary. Although it wasn’t dwelled upon. As Guy rightly pointed out they didn’t look like actors getting ready, these look like the real deal.

The pirates are assassinated in a tense well thought out procedure, I have to admit that it became to intense to bare. Red, green, red, green I just wanted it to be over. On this I have to applaud the film as I’m only guessing this is what it set out to do.

Captain Phillips is eventually brought back aboard his ship. Here he resembles a child, unknowing how to contact with any one else, when being asked if he is okay, he blurts out into a sob and eventually crumbles under the realization what he had just gone through.

I was confused by people negative feelings towards Tom Hanks before the film and I can happily sleep at night knowing they ate their words within this last scene. Fantastic and moving. I would be lying if I said I had dry eyes.

So what did I take from this film?

I ask this question as it seems to me that with every Tuesday film I watch it seems to connect to a certain project I am recently working on. This is no exception.

The idea of power and reasoning being passed between two characters is something I am working on with my 16mm film, I have included a part where Phil is angrily putting away vinyls. He is very much in control and leading the discussion, once that power starts to slip. Harry snatches the vinyls off him and takes control.

It sort of reminded me being in school where the only with the stick was allowed to talk, it’s just another way to show the segments of dialogue within digital vs film.


Captain Phillips. (2013). Directed by Paul Greengrass. USA: Columbia Pictures. [Film].





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