Thursday, October 17, 2013

Back to the Movies

Don't miss "Captain Phillips." It's edge of the seat excellent, even though you know the ending.  Getting to that ending is beautifully done, fabulous editing (and in-camera editing with hand-held cameras and "real-time" staging which gives the whole thing a "you-are-there" feeling.)  And Tom Hanks has turned in a marvelous performance, one of his best.

One of those "Which Facts Are True?" articles made it clear that the "sympathy" shown in this movie between Phillips and one Somali pirate who survives isn't accurate.  Phillips stated he always felt the pirates were very scary adversaries who beat him up (after he attempted to escape) and were planing to kill  him before the Navy Seals got to them first.  But  I felt the film's softer treatment of those guys made it a better film.  After all, they were all about 17-18-ish, were working under a local warlord to get money and, as is made clear in the film, only in America are there other options than piracy.  If you live in a hell-hole failed state like Somalia, and big ships just ripe for ransom keep coming down the coast, well, what's a young gangsta to do?

And the casting of several real Somali non-actors from the Somali immigrant community in Minnesota was a touch of genius. Brakhad Abdi, who played the one pirate who survived, had a typical Somali "look," the rail-thin Nilotic body type, long skull and huge eyes, and he played his role with scary, skittery menace that still held glimpses of his character's sad desperation.

While the film could have benefited with a little less pirate yelling and screaming (We get it, we get it, already.) the pace of the film is one long powerful drive.  But not (for me) without a moment of sly referential movie humor:  Things are desperate inside the life raft, the pirates rattled, fighting, edgy.  The night is dark, the situation perilous and degrading by the hour.  Then out of the dark, a HUGE braying horn and massive lights blaze and the little boat is rocked crazily like it's the end of the world.  Panic! Disarray!

Cut to the sleek menace of a Navy destroyer that seemed to appear out of nowhere blasting deafening klaxon noise and megaphoned threats and blinding light, the Navy's version the bugle and the thunder of hooves as the cavalry suddenly appears to save the day. Which, when the Navy SEAL Team 6 falls out of the sky, is what happens. 

After the exhausting excitement of "Captain Phillips," head over to the Palm for "Enough Said," James Gandolfini's last film.  This one is an absolute gem, an adult movie that's a laugh out loud funny, bittersweet, cringe-inducing, sublimely tender, keenly observed piece of human  comedy.  Superbly written and directed by Nicole Holofcener, with an extraordinary cast (Julia Luis-Dreyfus, Catherine Keener, Toni Collette) at the top of their game, this movie is a perfect trifecta about the eternal difficulties of getting and giving love.

And over it all, the sadness of knowing James Gandolfini's special talent is no longer with us, gone at too early an age. 


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