Movie Reviews: Captain Phillips and Nebraska


Tom Hanks again.  Really.

Actually I liked him much better as Captain Phillips than as Walt Disney, which is not to say that I liked him all that much.  I didn’t.  But I didn’t like the writing or the movie much either, so there we go.

Why is this nominated for any awards?  I don’t get it.

Here’s what I have to say:  if you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve seen the movie.  It tells pretty much the entire story, because there’s really not much story.  And what the trailer hints at–some kind of interesting Stockholm syndrome (identifying with one’s captors) relationship that reveals twisted and connected humanity under the worst circumstances–the movie fails to deliver.

Enough said, really.  It was a nothing of a movie.  If you want suspense this season, see American Hustle.  There’s story, humanity, originality, wildly spontaneous acting.  In this…well, Hanks has a one good scene at the end, and Barkhad Adbi is great throughout, but it’s just not enough.  At all.

In comparison, Nebraska is excellent.  And, Nebraska is just excellent, period.  It’s very funny, and I love the way it sometimes just lets an image say so much.  For example, there’s a long held moment of the men in the family watching television.  None of them are reacting to the game–they are just all watching.  And you know everything about this family, and how men are taught to be, and how absurd it is, and it’s hilarious.  And brilliant.

This is a movie that’s incredibly human, very funny, original in the corner of the world it reveals, aching in what it says about the meaningless and meaning of human life, and truly touching.  I love that it’s in black and white, I love the slowness of the action and the way it lets you really see the characters and who they are.  See it.  Vote for it.  I mean, okay, there’s no star performance like Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street, but sometimes an ensemble working so well, and a writer/director having something real to say make a movie just as good.  Or better.  Nebraska is that movie.

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2 thoughts on “Movie Reviews: Captain Phillips and Nebraska

  1. Hi Lyralen, good to have stumbled upon your blog. Gotta comment, I really enjoyed Captain Phillips and I got to disagree with your comment on Stockholm syndrome. CP presented two sides of a complex story.

    One, the story of regular Americans working their jobs and then facing a very perilous situation. And two, the backstory of Impoverished fishermen who, because other countries (like the US) have come in and over fished the resources that were the life blood of the Somalian communities the young men are now under the influence of people who demand they pirate. It draws real connections to why people resort to pirating, instead of saying “You’re the bad guy because you’re bad!” It address underlying issues of capitalism and the consequences of neo-colonialism.

    I think Phillips understood those complexities and therefore he did have human compassion towards his captures. It was also strategic on his part: He was showing his compassion in order to receive compassion back and keep them from hurting him. It was a survival tactic as much as it was Phillips sympathizing with how poverty often corners people into situations they would otherwise avoid. The movie wasn’t flawless but I do encourage you to take another look at it because I thought it was quite excellently done and raises some interesting questions.

  2. Hi Hannah–

    I think you’re being much more generous to the movie than I am–and it’s a good point that the pirates weren’t just evil. But I remain frustrated at the surface treatment of the issues you’re describing–I wanted a lot more. And a better actor than Hanks to make me feel and care about the kind of complexities you’re describing–I thought it was too muddied…a better actor, with more inner life, would have riveted me with figuring out when he was manipulating to survive and when he was starting to realize the hardships of the pirates’ lives. As it was, I slid off the surface of Hanks’ performance, often not sure when he was doing which, but, more importantly, not caring or being fundamentally involved. This was not true of Barkhad Adbi, but the writing didn’t give the kind of character or relational development that would have yanked at my heart. And I truly wish they’d given us more than a few basic facts about life in Somalia. Best, Lyralen

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