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Sunday, January 26, 2014

Captain Phillips Blu-ray Review


The Film

Back in 2009, the Maersk Alabama was hijacked by a group of Somali pirates. The ship's captain and some of its crew were held hostage for a brief period until the pirates escaped in a lifeboat, taking the captain with them. The pirates negotiated with the Navy for several days, before the SEALs stepped in. This isn't a movie. It's a true story.

Of course, it's also good story -- one that Hollywood couldn't wait to option. Put Tom Hanks in as the title character, and you've got Captain Phillips.

The movie tells the sort-of-true tale of Captain Richard Phillips and the crew of the Maersk Alabama. While en route to the Horn of Africa, the ship encounters two skiffs of pirates. The Alabama manages to escape them at first, but one of the boats returns with four heavily armed men, led by Muse (Barkhad Abdi). When their attempt to take over the Alabama fails, the four flee in the ship's lifeboat, taking Phillips along as cargo. The pirates plan to trade the captain for millions of dollars. However, the U.S. Navy has other plans.


 Barkhad Abdi (left) and Faysal Ahmed (right) consider Tom Hanks to be precious cargo in "Captain Phillips." Photo: © Sony.

Surprisingly, Captain Phillips isn't the type of movie that will have you chanting "U-S-A" at the end. It's not all rah-rah, but instead offers a bit of an up-close peek at the pirates and their motivation. Even with all of that chatter, the film is filled with thrilling action sequences. Director Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Ultimatum) uses his "shaky-cam" style of filmmaking to put you right in the middle of it all, so you'll experience every bumpy, hairy moment.

Also worth mentioning is Abdi, who really deserves all of the accolades he's been getting for his breakout role. That said, it's really Hanks that will leave you speechless. Accents aside, his performance is almost flawless. Does he deserve the Oscar? Maybe not. However, his absence from the list of nominations is just wrong. If you don't think so, watch the end again and get back to me. The rest of Captain Phillips is just as enjoyable, as is its supporting cast.

Some of the Maersk Alabama's real-life crew claims that the film isn't very accurate. It's not surprising, given the liberties Greengrass took with Bloody Sunday and United 93. However, the audience certainly won't be complaining. This isn't a history lesson; it's a big-budget Hollywood movie. And it's a really good one.

Want to set sail on a lengthier journey with this movie? Check out Lora Grady's theatrical review of Captain Phillips.

The Picture

Sony has slapped the "mastered in 4K" tagline on the back of this Blu-ray. I'm not exactly sure what that means for non-4K users, but I'm certainly not complaining. Captain Phillips is a pretty wonderful viewing experience in more ways than one. There are a few darker scenes inside the ship that are less than perfect, but it won't ruin the overall experience. The colors are pretty spot-on, whether inside the ship or out in the middle of the ocean. The 2.40:1 image is also busting with great detail. Facial hair, sweat and frown lines all stick out, as does the various parts of the ship and clothing.

The Sound

Sony's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is even better than the image. Right from the beginning, with the scenes of speeding to the airport and our introduction to the Somali pirates, you know this is going to be an immersive ride. It doesn't hurt that the film was helmed by Paul Greengrass, who is well known for his work on The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum. While not every minute of Captain Phillips is a thrill ride, it certainly doesn't waste a second of the surround sound. There are waves crashing, echoes inside the ship, and plenty of other ambient sounds on land and sea. However, the attack sequence is really the most impressive, like something out of a Bourne movie. The gunshots, the spraying water, and the soundtrack deliver some really memorable, suspenseful moments.

The Extras
If you want the full story on Captain Phillips, you'll have to listen to the included commentary track, which has director Paul Greengrass dissecting the film. Otherwise, "Capturing Captain Phillips" is the lone featurette, which is broken up into three parts: "Embarkation," "Full Ahead" and "Stand Fast." Combined, there's about an hour's worth of material here, with Tom Hanks, Greengrass, the real Captain Richard Phillips, and other members of the cast and crew talking up the actual story, the ship that was used during the filming, the director, shooting on the high seas, the cast, the lifeboat, and much more.
Final Thoughts

A true story, pirates and Tom Hanks; how can you possibly go wrong? You can't. Unless you hate Hanks as an actor (what's wrong with you?), you can't possibly hate Captain Phillips. It's a really gripping film filled with great performances. A lot of the accolades should be showered on director Paul Greengrass as well. He applies the same shaky-cam style you've seen in his Bourne films to make you feel like you're actually there -- whether you want to be or not. The Blu-ray is also a winner, with great AV and a collection of supplements that sort of sneak up on you. Put Captain Phillips at the top of your shopping list.

Product Details
Actors: Tom Hanks, Barkhad AbdiDirector: Paul GreengrassAudio/Languages: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (English), DTS 5.1 (French, Spanish)Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, SpanishAspect Ratio: 2.40:1Number of Discs: 2Rating: PG-13Studio: SonyBlu-ray Disc Release Date: January 21, 2014Run Time: 134 minutesList Price: $40.99Extras: Commentary with Director Paul GreengrassCapturing Captain PhillipsPreviewsStandard-Def DVDUltraViolet Digital Copy
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