Captain Phillips ★★

The only really good scene is the last one, and apparently it was improvised on the spot at the last minute.

If you squint you can see Greengrass forming a thesis about capitalism and its backing by violence, but since his aesthetic signature, by its very nature, doesn't allow anything beyond staid historical re-enactment, it can be hard to figure out where "the facts" end and "the message" begins. In particular, the escalating response of the U.S. Navy (first a battleship, then aircraft carriers, then the Seals) is almost...almost...hilarious. But Greengrass's style doesn't allow moments of levity or parody to puncture his docu-drama balloon. (This movie as directed by Paul Verhoeven would've been great.)

There's nothing wrong with a film that's essentially just an historical re-enactment. Spielberg's LINCOLN does it, of course, and it's pretty great. Heck, Dreyer's PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC is just a re-enactment based on court testimony. It can be done, but that doesn't mean you have to sacrifice artistry. Film isn't journalism so let's not pretend it's supposed to be.

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