Starring: Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi, Max Martini - Dir: Paul Greengrass
If any proof was needed that this year’s crop of Oscar nominees was an exceptionally strong field, it comes in the form of Captain Phillips. Last year it could comfortably have won the Best Film award; this year it didn’t stand a chance. Tom Hanks was even unluckier. He wasn’t even nominated for a turn that in another year could easily have won. He’s so good here that he makes it look easy.
Captain Phillips is the true story of the US container ship Maersk Alabama, which was hijacked by Somali pirates. The focus is on Hanks’ eponymous hero and the pirate captain, played by Andi, who was beaten to the best Supporting Actor award by Jared Leto.
It’s an exciting story, well told by director Greengrass, who uses his typical hand-held camera approach to bring the same sense of immediacy that imbued Flight 93 and his Bourne films. He’s also a very intelligent director, giving enough backstory to the pirates to stop them becoming two-dimensional villains.
Even knowing that Hanks will eventually be okay – that’s not a spoiler: Phillips did, after all, write the book – doesn’t diminish the suspense. Like seemingly everything at the moment it’s a long film (two-and-a-quarter hours) but never feels it: the combination of character and incident makes for riveting viewing.
Marvel continue to expand the boundaries of their universe with the second solo outing for the god of thunder Thor: The Dark World. And I guess how much you enjoy it depends on how much you buy into this stuff. Plot-wise Christopher Eccleston is leading the dark elves against Asgard (that’s where Thor and the other “Norse” gods live). Duplicitous brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is kicking around too. There’s a fair amount of fighting on foreign planets but where the film really works is on earth, capturing that “Avengers vibe” with panache and humour. The gods are actually a bit dull in comparison.
A Chilly wind blows as Prisoners is starting. Gruff Hugh Jackman is hunting a deer with his son. There’s a palpable sense of foreboding. His daughter is about to be abducted and the film is about to descend into a spiral of grief, revenge, injustice and obsession. There is an obvious suspect (Paul Dano) and a dogged cop (Jake Gyllenhaal) who has to free him for lack of evidence. It’s a big, long (two-and-a-half hours) serious film, handsomely shot, with strong committed performances and a satisfyingly complex resolution. But not in any way cheerful.
Pictures on the DVD cover and the fact that it’s based on a Tolstoy short story suggest that Two Jacks is a period piece. Not so, unless you count what I assume is the seventies. Instead it’s a low-budget digital experiment from interesting if inconsistent director Bernard Rose. It has Danny Huston as a legendary but down-and-out film director returning to LA in search of finance. A dalliance with Sienna Miller causes complications years later when she grows into Jacqueline Bisset and her daughter meets Jack’s son. It’s all a bit anticlimactic but does nail a fine line of vain Hollywood hypocrisy.
The internet is evil! Just ask the assembled Canadian teens in Antisocial, who live in a world where – as the cover puts it – “a contagious pandemic of violence, suicide and paranoid hallucinations has broken out”. It’s New Year’s eve and they’re at a house party, including our nominal heroine Sam. It doesn’t take long before someone notices that “Yo! Something’s seriously f***** up!” but locking the doors can’t stop that wretched interweb. The common denominator seems to be ubiquitous Facebook-like site The Social Redroom. Death and destruction ensue. Small scale, rather obviously a zombie variant, but generally effective nonetheless.