With the increasing use of fictional elements in documentary films (especially in modern, performative works) and the increased use of documentary elements in fictional narratives (psuedo-documentary or mockumentary pieces), the lines dividing fiction, true stories, and films based on a true stories have become increasingly blurred. The blended genre, often called "docudrama," has offered audiences plenty of heavily-slanted and overly-manipulative garbage as well as a few well-crafted and poignant explorations of real human drama. Near the top of those very best examples of this relatively new genre, in company with brilliant films like The Battle of Algiers, Hotel Rwanda, The Bang Bang Club, and Black Hawk Down, shines Captain Phillips.
Even if you are familiar with the true events surrounding the hijacking of the Maersk Alabama by Somali pirates (the first American cargo ship to by hijacked in 200 years -- for those of you who like trivia), Paul Greengrass' direction and Billy Ray's screenplay will keep you fastened to the screen. The performances are beyond flawlessly genuine and the impeccable structure and rhythm of the film simultaneously build the intensity and hold to an almost banal and ridiculous realism. These keep the film from turning into an action movie and give it the stronger suspense and emotion of a personal connection. In Ray's hands the characters (even the bad guys) are given respect and substance without changing their roles or excusing their actions. The writing, performances, and directing, in short, move both the story and the audience's compassion with consummate skill.
Captain Phillips does what a great docudrama should do: entertains, intrigues, and makes its point without giving in to the overt preaching or lack of moral themes many contemporary films favor.
SAXTON'S FILM PICKS
People are always asking me what my favorite movies are, so I thought I'd make a list with reviews. I'll try to add a new pick every so often until my huge list of favorites is complete.
If you've seen one (or more) of the films, please add your own (appropriate) comments and reviews.