Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Best movie of the year*

Why the asterisk? Because we have another three months left in 2013, and Oscar-contending heavyweights get packed into them like commuters into the Tokyo subway on Friday afternoon. So I'm keeping an open mind, but I'm having a hard time imagining what's going to be more impressive than "Captain Phillips."

My full review will run Oct. 11, when it opens. My first take, two hours after walking out of the theater, is that Tom Hanks has never given a more impressive performance than he does as Rich Phillips, a shipping captain whose vessel was taken over by Somali pirates four years ago. The film's director, Paul Greengrass, took a similar kind of documentary-fiction approach to "United 93," about the doomed flight crashed on 9/11/2001 with al-Qaeda hijackers aboard. (He also did the second and third "Bourne" movies.)

Here's a trailer:

I came away from the film with three impressions. First, top-rank artists can always surprise us. I thought I'd seen everything Tom Hanks had to show us, for good ("Philadelphia") or ill ("Cloud Atlas"), but he made me forget I was watching one of the most recognizable actors in the world.

Second, suspense movies always require an emotional component. Not sometimes, but all the time. And I don't mean a happy hug between John McClane and his son after blowing up chunks of Russia. I mean a deep sense of what's at stake personally for the people in danger of their lives.

Third, Hollywood needs to find a better way to spread release dates for movies of this quality throughout the year. Shoving them all into a three-month period is like telling a hungry person to fast for a week, then cram all the delicious food down his gullet that he can stand. There must be a way, among the "Lone Rangers" and "Supermen" and "White Houses Down," to accommodate a film as great as this one during the summer.