2014 Reel Theology: Captain Phillips (movie #4)

My reactions to Captain Phillips, with an attempt not to spoil anything for anyone who hasn’t seen it.

The pre-movie expectations

I am anticipating this movie as one I will enjoy.  So far, I’ve liked most of the movies I’ve watched for this journey, but I haven’t really enjoyed them much.  They weren’t particularly entertaining, although I think American Hustle was supposed to be, even if they were provocative or enlightening, or well acted…  However, I am anticipating this one will be somewhat of an adventure.  I don’t know much about it, except that it’s about the Somali Pirates who took Captain Phillips hostage.  I don’t remember much about the actual event, except that President Obama authorized the shooting of the pirates to rescue innocent people, a move of which I approved at the time. We’ve rented the movie on Netflix and I’m prepared to watch it with my wife, so it’s pretty much all warm fuzzes and happy expectations.

The prelude

The movie feels odd at first, like a documentary.  I think it’s because there is minimal soundtrack (virtually none at the beginning) and the filming has that black and white feel, even when it’s in color.  I don’t know if that makes sense to anyone else, but it feels sort of drab and gray.  Tom Hanks is a good enough actor that it looks like he’s not acting, and it really does sort of look like we’re just watching in on actions of normal life unfolding.  It’s not what I expected, but it’s intriguing.   Ironically though it’s making me feel less engaged, rather than more.  Wonder if this will change.

The action

It does.  Once the action begins in earnest, I am completely drawn into the thrill of the ride.  I know that ultimately the good guys win, but I can’t remember other people die along the way.  Tom Hanks is doing a great job.  He seems to be growing increasingly helpless and desperate and he’s doing a good job of that gradual disintegration.  By the end of the movie his shock seems very convincing to me.  

It appears to me the movie has struck a good balance.  The Somali Pirates are not really sympathetic, but they are people.  We understand, without approving, what they are doing.  Captain Phillips seems a good guy without being superhuman.

My reaction

I was right.  I enjoyed it.  It was and entertaining, exciting adventure with just enough depth to provoke some thought, but not so much to ruin its very nature as an action adventure movie.

My Seven Themes thoughts so far.

Interestingly, I find movies based on real life to be some of the easiest to find the Seven Themes in.  I don’t know if this is confirmation that these are life themes, or that Hollywood works harder to make themes of real raw material than matieral they create.  I suspect the former, but I’m not sure.

Fellowship is one of the weaker themes as Captain Phillips spend a large part of the movie by himself.  Having said that, it’s clear that many many parts are engaged in what is actually a struggle between two groups:  The Somali Pirates and the Americans.  

Redemption is less clear than I’d like.  I’m not sure if we are supposed to see any particular redemption in Captain Phillips (or anyone else for that matter) but I suspect not.  It’s not really part of the story.  .

Alternate worlds is well defined by the Somali world and the American world.  The dialogue hits on this in several places, revealing how the perspectives and thoughts are shaped by which world you dwell in.

Christ figure is most likely the titular character, but so much of the movie is just about his own rescue, it’s not entirely clear to me.  Still, he is responsible for saving the rest of the ship, and ultimately plays a lot into his own rescue.  If there is another “saving of the world” I’m missing, a redemption I don’t see, let me know.

Resurrection is pretty eek.

Suybstitutionary love is stronger here than most of the movies I’ve seen.  Captain Phillips heroism comes down entirely to this aspect. 

Current Ranking in my mind.


Captain Phillips


American Hustle


I rate movies according to how much of my money and time they are worth.  My rating for this movie is bolded below.

Worth a full price movie ticket

Worth a matinee viewing.

Worth a dollar movie viewing.

Worth a DVD/itunes rental

Watch it on Netflix

Watch it on TV on a Saturday Afternoon when you’v nothing else to do and you’r sonly laying around anyway.

Not worth your time

Influencing factors in my reactions

I think this movie was intending to be an action adventure and I judged it as such.  If it’s intended instead to be some kind of political message, or deep provocative movie about violence’s limits, then I would judge it much lower for it failed to do these.  However, as a good solid action movie, it was very good.  I watched in my house with my wife, with frequent interruptions from other kids.  This can often make an adventure movie lose all continuity, but in this case it held it’s own against the kids.  I’m not sure my wife or daughter liked it as much as I did, but I still enjoyed it.  I am a republican and voted for George Bush twice, John McCain, and Mitt Romney.  I’m not sure it matters, since this seemed apolitical, and was to me, a positive event under President Obama’s watch but due to the recent political context of the events, I thought I’d mention it

This is just my reaction.  What was yours?


Join the discussion

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: