Top 15 Films of the Year, No. 10 – Captain Phillips

Captain Phillips - BP

Captain Phillips is a film directed by Paul Greengrass, with a screenplay by Billy Ray.  The film tells the true-life story of the hijacking of the Maersk Alabama container ship off the coast of Somalia.  The film focuses on Captain Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks) and his courageous journey while taken hostage by Abduwali Muse (Barkhad Abdi) and his group of pirates.

Paul GreengrassCaptain Phillips is a pulse-pounding thriller, but I honestly did not expect anything less from Paul Greengrass—he directed both United 93 and The Bourne Ultimatum, two well-made, award-nominated thrillers.  The filmmaking style in this movie is quite similar to that of United 93, and here, Greengrass has created another instant classic in cinematic history.  Each scene throughout this film is forceful in every way, and this terrifying tale receives a committed, marvelous exploration from Paul Greengrass.

Tom HanksAnother factor of Captain Phillips that warrants its place in my Top 10 is the superb acting performances, including remarkable performances from seasoned veteran Tom Hanks and from rookie Barkhad Abdi.  As Captain Richard Phillips, Tom Hanks brings his years of dramatic acting to the screen, and the result is something magical, even for a man with so many award-winning performances.  With every passing moment, you truly feel both the fear and composure of Hanks’s character, and his display of acting greatness fully immerses you into the hijacking in a way that will keep you on the edge of your seat—it sure did for me.

EE British Academy Film Awards 2014 - Winners RoomEven with a dazzling performance from Tom Hanks, the greatest part of this film was Barkhad Abdi’s portrayal of the real-life Abduwali Muse, the leader of the Somali pirates.  If you are not aware of Abdi’s story, he moved from Somalia to Minneapolis, Minnesota, with his family in 1999, and before auditioning for the film, he worked as a limousine driver.  Before the film, Abdi had absolutely zero acting experience, and that fact alone would make anyone fawn over his performance in Captain Phillips.  His character is menacing, yet weak at the same time, and Abdi delineates this character with such poise and refinement.  Abdi is considered a serious contender for the Oscar this season, especially after winning for Best Supporting Actor at the BAFTAs.

The film takes you on a wild ride, and I did not see another film in 2013 that put me more on edge.  It received six Academy Award nominations, which is definitely deserved, but I was surprised that neither Tom Hanks nor Paul Greengrass were nominated because this film is one of the highlights of each of their storied careers.  Captain Phillips is rated PG-13 for sustained intense sequences of menace, some violence with bloody images, and for substance use.

Captain Phillips trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_3ASoBrFGlc

Academy Award nominations for Captain Phillips:

Best Picture (Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti, and Michael De Luca, Producers)

Best Supporting Actor (Barkhad Abdi)

Best Film Editing (Christopher Rouse)

Best Sound Editing (Oliver Tarney)

Best Sound Mixing (Chris Burdon, Mark Taylor, Mike Prestwood Smith, and Chris Munro)

Best Adapted Screenplay (Billy Ray)

Previous movies on the countdown of the Top 15 Films of the Year:

11. Her

12. Philomena

13. Fruitvale Station

14. The Place Beyond the Pines

15. Dallas Buyers Club

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Best Supporting Actor

Michael Fassbender

Last year, the actors nominated for Best Supporting Actor combined for six previous Oscar wins and sixteen prior nominations.  This year, there could not be a more polar-opposite assemblage of performers.  Three of this year’s five nominees have never been nominated for an Academy Award.  Only Jonah Hill and Bradley Cooper have previously received Oscar nominations; however, these two actors combine for just two previous nominations.  Even though this year’s group is made up of novices in regards to the Oscars, it is nonetheless one of the most competitive categories of the entire Academy Awards field.  The following is my Oscars ballot for this category, Best Actor in a Supporting Role:

WINNER: Michael Fassbender (12 Years A Slave)

In 12 Years A Slave, Michael Fassbender portrays Edwin Epps, a dark, menacing plantation owner in the pre-Civil War era.  Epps is a complicated man with fits of rage mixed in with his sexual desire for his top-producing slave Patsey (Lupita Nyong’o).  This Michael Fassbender 2year is one of the best collections of supporting performances in a very long time, and even though Jared Leto is stealing everyone’s thunder at nearly every award show, I believe Fassbender gave this year’s top performance.  His depiction of the slave-driving Epps is so incredibly multi-dimensional, and Fassbender performs in such a way that made me both despise and empathize with his character simultaneously.  For those of you that have not seen this film yet, there is a scene where Fassbender must discipline Patsey, the slave who is the object of his affection, and what transpires is a gruesome, but very authentic presentation that I believe justifies giving both Fassbender and Nyong’o Oscars.  Fassbender has never previously been nominated for an Academy Award.

2. Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)

In Dallas Buyers Club, Jared Leto plays Rayon, an HIV-positive transgender woman.  As many of you know, Leto is cleaning house at nearly every awards show for his Jared Letoperformance as Rayon, and honestly, it is all justified.  Leto is completely believable as a transgender woman, and he gives an emotionally dramatic performance that will rival any performance you may see for quite some time.  Even though nearly all of Leto’s scenes in the film are played as Rayon, the most heartbreaking scene in the entire movie features Leto confronting his father as Raymond, seemingly the man he used to be before his transformation.  In any other year, I would take Leto by a landslide; however, this year, his fantastic performance did not quite reach the level of Fassbender’s unbelievable depiction of Edwin Epps.  Jared Leto has never previously been nominated for an Academy Award.

3. Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips)

In Captain Phillips, Barkhad Abdi plays the real-life Abduwali Muse, one of the Somali pirates who overtook a U.S. cargo ship and held the captain hostage.  If Abdi were one ofBarkhad Adbi in Columbia Pictures' "Captain Phillips," starring Tom Hanks. the most established actors in all of Hollywood, I would still think that this performance was wonderful.  But Abdi is not an established actor; in fact, this was his very first acting job of his entire life—this fact makes it even more evident that Abdi gave one of the year’s most acclaimed performances.  Abdi’s depiction of Muse was carefully constructed, and he delineates the character in such a way that I identified with him despite the fact that he is holding a gun to Richard Phillips’s head while taking him hostage.  I sure hope Abdi is able to find other work in Hollywood because he is clearly one of the brightest shining stars from 2013.  Barkhad Abdi has never previously been nominated for an Academy Award.

4. Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street)

In The Wolf of Wall Street, Jonah Hill plays Donnie Azoff, the drug-addicted, stock-scheming sidekick of Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio); Azoff is a character based on Danny Porush, the real-life associate of Belfort’s brokerage firm Stratton Oakmont.  If someone would have bet me $1 million in 2007, after my first viewing of Superbad, to say Jonah Hillthat Jonah Hill would become one of the most versatile actors in Hollywood, I would have told that lunatic to get lost.  And yet, here I am today about to make that very proclamation: Jonah Hill is one of the most versatile actors in Hollywood!  He has proven to be a comedic force in films like Get Him to the Green and 21 Jump Street, but his roles in both Moneyball and The Wolf of Wall Street have revealed his great acting depth.  His role as Donnie Azoff will forever be one of my favorites in film, and I only wish Jonah had a weaker group of competition this year so he could finally take home the coveted golden statute.  Jonah Hill was previously nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Moneyball (2011).

5. Bradley Cooper (American Hustle)

In American Hustle, Bradley Cooper plays Richie DiMaso, a “go-getter” FBI agent who attempts to take down a group of corrupt politicians in New York City with the help from Bradley Coopertwo con artists (Christian Bale and Amy Adams).  Bradley Cooper continually takes on well-calculated acting roles and continues to find loads of success doing so; however, once again he has turned in a tremendous performance in a year that is packed with unbelievable acting talent.  I wish he could take home the award for his portrayal of the perm-hairdo-wearing DiMaso, but unfortunately, the cards are stacked against him this Oscars season.  Bradley Cooper was previously nominated for Best Actor for his role in Silver Linings Playbook (2012).

Actors snubbed in this category: Tye Sheridan (Mud), Daniel Brühl (Rush), Keith Stanfield (Short Term 12), Will Forte (Nebraska), and Jeremy Renner (American Hustle)